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The great ex-retire hire: Why UK businesses are seeking the over 50s to plug labour shortage

According to recent research from LinkedIn, almost three-quarters of UK employers are turning to retirees to fill empty job roles

It is certainly a trend we’re seeing across some of the UK’s largest employers, with companies like  EasyJet,Halfords and McDonald’s all recently announcing recruitment drives aimed at attracting an older workforce.

But Guy Garnett, Principal Consultant at New Street Consulting Group explains that after years of recruitment favouring younger generations and older workers being routinely overlooked, many may question what’s changed.

Both Brexit and Covid-19 have had a dramatic impact on the UK’s labour market. The end of free movement has meant EU migrant workers no longer have an automatic right to work in the UK, causing a skills shortage across a wide range of industries.

Additionally, the latest research from ONS revealed half a million more people are out of work due to long-term sickness compared to pre-pandemic levels, with those aged 25-34 years old seeing the steepest increase in long-term sickness.

It’s unsurprising, therefore, that UK employers are looking to retirees and those aged 50 and over to plug their recruitment gap. For those suffering the financial effects of the cost of living crisis or concerned about economic instability during the recession, more job opportunities for the over 50s will be a welcome relief. And from an employer’s perspective, an older workforce holds a wealth of experience and varied skills that are invaluable for business.

While it’s great to see more businesses strive to improve inclusivity for older workers, employers will need to be cautious of unconscious bias during the recruitment process, particularly when looking to hire within a specific demographic.

Confirmation bias, for example, plays into preconceived notions a recruiter may have against an older worker and can hinder candidates before they’ve even attended an interview.

Equally, employers will want to avoid any accidental similarity bias, where hiring managers subconsciously gravitate towards those who present similarly to themselves. One example of this could be a younger manager only hiring graduates while overlooking older applicants. This results in a less diverse and less inclusive work environment which ultimately hinders business growth.

To avoid this, ensure the language chosen within job descriptions isn’t coded to put off specific demographics from the outset.

Interview processes should also be reviewed to ensure inclusivity by asking all candidates the same questions and ranking them based on skillset as opposed to gut feeling.

Diversity and inclusion should be an important part of any business’ recruitment process, with studies showing more diverse teams generate up to 19 percent more innovation revenue. And while ageism in the workplace has long been overlooked, this year’s push to hire ex-retirees will hopefully spark future discussion over how to make workplaces more inclusive for all age brackets.

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