Business champion for older workers is positive appointment for contractors

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Many people choose the contractor way of working as they get older, in order to capitalise on their experience and to enjoy greater flexibility.

However, professionals of a more advanced age aren't always well represented among policymakers, meaning they often lose out.

This is hoped to change with the appointment of Dr Ros Altmann to the role of business champion for older workers.

The economist, policy expert and consumer champion is the first to hold the position, which is a landmark in the government's attempt to better support over-50s in the labour market.

Department for Work and Pensions minister Steve Webb announced the appointment of Dr Altmann, who is a former director-general of Saga and an independent expert on later life issues.

She will now have the job of making the case for older workers in the business community and challenging existing perceptions.

"I am so pleased that the government has shown it recognises the importance of encouraging people to stay in the labour market, rather than giving up before they need to," Dr Altmann said. "This will bring benefits all round – to individuals, to business and to the economy as a whole. A big part of my role is to work with employers to understand the significant benefits of retaining and recruiting older workers."

The creation of the business champion for older workers role comes after the publication of 'Fuller Working Lives - A Framework for Action'. The document explained the benefits to individuals, business and the economy by ensuring people over the age of 50 can stay in the workplace for longer.

There are already more older workers in employment than ever before, with 4,860,000 men and 4,140,000 women over the age of 50 in work. These numbers have increased by 465,000 and 469,000 respectively over the last four years.

However, often people are forced into retirement by circumstances beyond their control. This has serious ramifications and research shows that leaving work before the state pension age makes it harder to maintain living standards. Indeed, a third of those leaving employment before the state pension age between 2008 and 2010 saw their household income fall by half.

Individuals are also likely to lose out on potential workplace pension income.

It is hoped that Dr Altmann will be able to reduce instances of this happening by preventing over-50s being pushed out of work.

Mr Webb said: "Older workers have a huge amount to bring to any workforce and are a vast, untapped talent in the UK labour market. The business case is compelling and I am delighted that Ros will now be taking a lead in going out and making that case directly to the business community."

Nicky Morgan, minister for women, added that if businesses don't retain experience they run the risk of missing out. What's needed is extra support and a challenge to "outdated perceptions".

"I am delighted that Dr Ros Altmann has been appointed and with her breadth of experience, she will be a great advocate of this work," she said.

By Victoria McDonnell

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