From National Older Workers Week to concerns about poor health impacts on work

This week’s HR news round-up focuses on the Autumn Statement, Equal Pay Day and National Older Workers Week.

Over 50s worker chats to younger employee survey shows barriers for older workers, but what would help them

third of all older workers (31%) are struggling to find employment today, with 34% of older workers job hunting from seven months to over a year before landing a role, according to the annual survey.

The new research, released for National Older Workers Week, shows the barriers that older workers are facing getting into the workplace today – including the introduction of AI into recruitment, which 55% believe will make it even harder to get a job.

It also suggests that 41% of retired workers could be tempted out of retirement and back to the workforce if the right employment was available, if they felt their experience was valued and if they could get back in. 88% said they were open to learning new things.

Ageism is a huge barrier that older workers face when applying for jobs. Almost two-thirds (57%) of those looking for a job have experienced ageism, and 55% feel their CV or application was sidelined due to their age. Almost half (46%) have altered their CV in a bid just to get an interview.

Obtaining work-life balance is top of the list for older workers today, with 36% of older workers saying that it is very important to them. Being able to access flexible working is a deal breaker for 28% of older workers, and for 32% having a job with purpose is a top factor.

In direct contrast to the number of people who say they could be tempted to return to employed work, increasing numbers of middle-aged workers are keen to leave the 9-5 behind. 75% of 46-55-year-olds want to retire early, but 69% can’t afford to.  For 38% of all older workers this is health-related; for 26%, it is because of caring responsibilities – but one in four cite dissatisfaction with their job as the reason. In fact, almost half (49%) of all respondents said that employers don’t value their life experience.

Asked what would encourage them to stay in work longer, almost half (47%) would want more flexible working. 55% of older workers say work-life balance has become more important to them as they’ve got older, and as a result, 58% would want the right to ask for flexible working from day one of employment and one in four (28%) see flexible working as a deal breaker, and more than a third (36%) would need a higher salary.

Full results here

Autumn Statement brings focus on business, but little on care infrastructure

The Autumn Statement included National Insurance cuts and an increase in the national living wage, but the response has focused more on what wasn’t in it than what was, particularly in relation to support for early years providers and public services.

The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, said he would abolish “class 2” national insurance contributions [NICs] for the self employed, which count towards their state pension entitlements. He added that “class 4” contributions will be cut by 1%, saving people £350 a year in total. For employees, he will cut NICs by 2% from January [down from 12% to 10%].

He also announced that the national living wage will increase by more than a pound an hour from April to £11.44 and that it will be extended to 21-year-olds. Early years organisations have already expressed concern about how they will fund the increase, given no extra support was announced for the sector by the Chancellor. The National Day Nurseries Association stated that unless the Government increases the funding rates for all children to include the hike in minimum wages, its childcare expansion policy would be “completely undeliverable”. It singled out the lack of any mention of scrapping or offering a discount on business rates for struggling childcare providers.

Hunt said benefits would be increased by 6.7% in April in line with September’s inflation rate. The benefits rise was accompanied by confirmation that the Government will change the sick note system so that it assumes people can work and will tighten the work capability assessment. The Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast that the changes will “halve the flow” of people into the ‘no conditionality’ group. The Government says it will provide support to enable them to work, but that if, after 18 months of help, people are still unemployed there will be mandatory work experience. Those who don’t participate will have their benefits stopped.

There were a number of measures for employers, including a proposal to make permanent full expensing relief for main rate expenditure on plant and machinery which will be welcomed by large manufacturing and utility businesses in particular.

Read more here.

Flexible working in senior jobs a must for closing the gender pay gap, says report

Making flexible work the default in high-quality, high-paid jobs is essential if the gender pay gap is to close in less than 28 years, according to a report from the Fawcett Society for Equal Pay Day on Wednesday.

The report shows that women are accessing flexible work associated with lower-paid, lower-quality work such as part-time, insecure work and zero-hours contracts, in order to balance their caring responsibilities, and that this contributes to the UK’s gender pay gap.

It says that:

  • 40% of women who aren’t currently working said that access to flexible work would mean they could take on more paid work (32% of men who aren’t working and 37% of people overall said the same)
  • Women were significantly more likely to report working part-time (27%) compared to men (14%)
  • Men were more likely to report having access to more desirable forms of flexible work—for example, working term time only (outside of an education setting) (21%), working as part of a job share (18%), working a number of set hours flexibly across the year (15%) or working to commissioned outcomes (10%).
  • 77% of women agreed that they would be more likely to apply for a job that advertises flexible working options.

Read more here.

Ruling suggests employees can sue employers for work-related stress

A judge has ruled in favour of a woman who claimed disability discrimination in connection with work-related stress.

Debra Phillips, an NHS worker, had sued her employer, Aneurin Bevan University Local Health Board. The judge said she had shown that the stress had significantly affected her ability to carry day to day activities over a period of over 12 months. She had described being unable at times to leave the house, being unable to socialise with others and had indicated that on numerous occasions her sleep and her ability to concentrate had been affected. The judge also found that Phillips had medical records showing she suffered from stress, although she did not have a formal diagnosis of mental illness.

The ruling highlights the duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for employees experiencing disabilities, including mental health problems.

Supreme Court rules Deliveroo riders are not employees

The Supreme Court has ruled that people working for Deliveroo cannot be considered employees because they don’t have specified hours, can work for rival companies and can appoint someone to work in their place.

A case brought by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWUGB) argued that Deliveroo riders should have collective bargaining rights, but the Supreme Court ultimately ruled they cannot benefit from union membership as they do not meet the definition of a worker or employee.

A Deliveroo spokesperson said: “UK courts repeatedly and at every level have confirmed that Deliveroo riders are self-employed, and this now includes the highest court in the country. This is a positive judgment for Deliveroo riders, who value the flexibility that self-employed work offers.”

The IWUGB, which represents thousands of gig economy workers, said it was disappointed by the decision and was considering its options under international law.

Number of business failures rising

The number of businesses failing has surpassed the number starting up for the first time since 2010, according to the Office for National Statistics.

It says that between 2021 and 2022, the number of UK businesses starting up fell from 364,000 to 337,000. Meanwhile, the number of UK businesses failing increased from 328,000 to 345,000 in the same period.

The transport and storage (including postal) industry had the highest business start-up rate, at 21.2%, and the highest failure rate, at 23.8%. Nevertheless, in 2022, there were 11,480 high-growth businesses in the UK, measured by employment, compared with 10,695 in 2021.

Reports focus on health at work

The Government should take a coherent policy approach to tobacco, alcohol and high fat, salt and/or sugar foods, with a focus on primary prevention, given the significant impact they have on people’s ability to work, according to a new report.

The report by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) and the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) outlines the scale of harm caused collectively by tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food and drinks, which are major causes of death and chronic disease.

It calculates that the cost in terms of productivity, unemployment and economic inactivity caused by tobacco, alcohol and obesity is  £31bn and an estimated 459,000 people being out of work.

It says the industries which sell these products make an estimated £53bn a year from sales “at levels harmful to health”.

It calls on the government to regulate advertising to limit harm; regulate to raise the age of sale of some products appropriately to limit harms and remove products from prominent positions in shops; raise the price of harmful products through appropriate taxation and restrictions on alcohol promotions and multi-buy deals; target treatment at the most affected; and better inform the public about risks through evidence-based mass marketing health campaigns and product labelling.

Professor Linda Bauld, Professor of Public Health University of Edinburgh and Chair of the report steering group, said: “There is a clear role for Government in reducing the consumption of products which harm health and the economy and this fits with the Government’s own vision for improving public health. However, in practice with the exception of tobacco, action has been slow and concentrated not on what businesses do to increase consumption but on what individuals can do to resist temptation. This balance needs to be reset and industry activity must be regulated to protect the health of the public.”

Meanwhile, a poll commissioned by the Liberal Democrats hsa found one in three working adults say they have missed work in the last year while waiting for a medical appointment or treatment on the NHS.

The poll shows one in seven (15%) say they have had to take a significant length of time off work as they wait for NHS treatment or surgery for a health condition. Just over one in 10 (12%) have not been able to work while they have been  waiting for an emergency dental appointment.’s annual survey shows NHS and social care waiting lists are having a significant impact on older workers, with many saying that waiting for themselves or a dependent has led to them leaving work or reducing their hours.

50PLUS Champions increase

The number of 50PLUS Champions helping older workers into work has been doubled in Jobcentres up and down the country, according to the Government.

The Ministry of Employment says 77 50PLUS Champions – up from 37 at last year’s launch – are now in place across England, Wales and Scotland, working directly with Jobcentres and employers to remove barriers that are keeping older people out of work.

50PLUS Champions work with jobseekers to change preconceptions about hiring older workers and ensure Jobcentre staff are supporting jobseekers to find roles or opportunities tailored to their skills to deliver for employers.

Read more here.

Warning over childcare deserts gap

More than 1.5 million children in England are living in ​childcare deserts”, where there are more than three children for every early years place, according to a new report from the New Economics Foundation and The Social Guarantee.

Researchers found that 44% of children in England aged 0 – 5 lived in childcare deserts, which are more likely to be found in the most deprived local authorities. The study includes a graph showing over 80% of the most deprived local authorities in England are described as early childhood education and care deserts, compared to less than 5% of the least deprived 20% of local authorities.

The report, A Fair Start for All, comes just months before the government’s expansion of free hours kicks in, amid concerns that childcare providers won’t be able to meet demand. Many parents cannot access ‘free childcare’ for three and four year olds because, to be eligible, both parents [or a single parent] need to be working at least 16 hours a week on or above the minimum wage.

The report comes as the National Day Nurseries Association says its analysis of Ofsted statistics shows that there are 502 fewer nurseries and pre-schools between September 2022 and August 2023, which it says “is putting serious pressure on the remaining early education and care providers ahead of the expected expansion of funded places in April”.

Read more here.

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