Redundancies among the over-50s have soared in the past year, and could rise even further once employers are required to contribute more towards the pay of furloughed staff, a report has warned.
The number of over-50s made redundant almost tripled to 107,000 between last November and January 2021, research by Rest Less found.
The organisation, which gives advice and help to older people, also found there were an estimated 1.3 million over-50s on furlough at the end of February 2021 – 28 per cent of the total furloughed workforce of 4.65 million.
Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less, said: “While there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the economy starting to open up, it’s clear that businesses are far from out of the woods yet, with many still struggling to survive and the level of redundancies remaining historically high.
“The extra extension to the furlough scheme has stemmed the flow of redundancies for now, but redundancy rates amongst the over-50s remain stubbornly high and are the highest among all age groups.
“With an estimated 1.3 million workers over the age of 50 still on furlough, there is a very real danger of a tsunami of redundancies among workers in their 50s and 60s when struggling employers are required to increase their contribution to the furlough scheme from July.
“This is of concern to all of us, as previous research has shown that once unemployed, workers over the age of 50 are two-and-a-half times more likely to drift into long-term unemployment than their younger counterparts, due to a mix of age discrimination in the recruitment process and a lack of accessibility to tailored retraining programmes.”
Kim Chaplain, associate director of work at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “These figures show just how devastating the impact of the pandemic has been on over-50s.
“This is particularly worrying because we know that over-50s are likely to struggle more than any other group to get back into work – so we risk seeing many of these people leaving the workforce for good.
“We need to see targeted employment support to help over-50s back to work, and a strong message from the government that not only is this group just as entitled to work as younger workers, they also provide a valuable contribution we cannot afford to lose.”
A government spokesperson said its strategy to work with employers, formerly known as Fuller Working Lives, was supporting around 600,000 claimants aged over 50.
She said: “Older workers are a huge asset to this country, and heading into the pandemic, we saw record numbers of older workers in employment.
“As we build back better we want to ensure there is fresh opportunity for this group too, and we’re already helping many back into work through our Plan for Jobs and our refreshed 50 Plus: Choices offer – whether it’s support to build new skills, gain valuable work experience, or simply to find new employment.”
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