Weekly news round-up: from reluctant-to-return retirees to assault in the NHS

This week’s WM People news round-up focuses on everything from a report calling for early intervention to stop older workers leaving the workplace to research into the extent of sexual assault in the surgical workforce.

Over 50s worker chats to younger employee


‘Focus on stopping older people leaving the workforce’

Over two thirds of retirees would resent having to go back to work, according to a poll by think tank Demos which argues for early intervention to stop older workers leaving the workforce rather than trying to get those who have left to return.

With housing and care organisation Anchor it has published a new report on older workers and says the Government should focus on the many who leave work before they wish to do so. It says there are over 800,000 older people who are currently out of work but who want a job. It adds that hundreds of thousands of older workers are at risk of leaving the workforce due to a range of factors such as a lack of access to flexible working, lack of support for those workers made redundant, ill health or disability, poor experiences of work and age discrimination.

The Platinum Pound report says financial incentives are one way to make staying in work more attractive, but that these need to be targeted at those that most need them and delivered in a way that recognises the contribution and value of workers. It also calls for regulatory changes that can improve the quality of work and encouragement for flexible working alongside institutional investment in infrastructure.

Specifically, the report calls for the introduction of an annual tax-free £1,000 Priority Jobs Bonus – for all workers over 55 working in shortage occupations and earning less than £50,000 a year, subsidised occupational health services for employers, forcing large public and private sector employers to provide redundancy employment support programmes for employees over the age of 50 and consultation on mandating large public and private sector employers to train managers on how to manage older workers and improve multigenerational team working.

Other recommendations include a government campaign to champion older workers and age-friendly employment, the creation of Job Clubs for over 50s through a Universal Work Service and investment in a national hotline so that older people can report age discrimination at work.

IPPR report calls for radical social and healthcare reform to boost the economy

Record economic inactivity levels due to sickness are preventing the UK from delivering a high growth economy with a strong labour market, warns a new report which calls for radical reform.

The IPPR think tank report says that, without reform, comprehensive new modelling of NHS expenditure by LCP Health Analytics and IPPR finds taxpayers will pay more for worsening services. On the post-pandemic trajectory, it predicts government healthcare spending in England (by DHSC) is on course to rise from 9 per cent of GDP to 11.2 per cent of GDP by 2033/34.

It’s 10-point plan for reform includes a social care guarantee with personal care made free, on a par with the NHS, and a new deal for health and care workers, who would have their student loan debts cancelled, be offered greater control over their working time and be given a greater voice in planning services, alongside the professionalisation of care work with a new Royal College of Social Care.

The IPPR says the plan would shift the NHS from a sickness service to a prevention service, focused on effectiveness rather than just efficiency, saving money and improving public health.

Read more here.

Wages outstrip inflation for the first time in over a year

Annual wages excluding bonuses hit a record high of 7.8% in May to July 2023, bringing it slightly above inflation for the first time in over a year, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

This was in part due to NHS and Civil Service one-off payments made in June and July 2023.

Meanwhile, figures on employment and economic inactivity were gloomy. The UK employment rate was down on the previous quarter, mainly driven by full-time self-employed workers, and the unemployment rate for May to July 2023 increased by 0.5 percentage points on the quarter to 4.3%. The increase in unemployment was largely driven by people unemployed for up to 12 months.

The economic inactivity rate increased by 0.1 percentage points on the quarter, to 21.1%. Those inactive because of long-term sickness increased to another record high. Meanwhile, those inactive because they were looking after family or home decreased to a record low.

In June to August 2023, the estimated number of job vacancies fell by 64,000 on the quarter to 989,000.

Sexual misconduct rife in surgical workforce

Sexual misconduct is rife in the UK surgical workforce, with women disproportionately impacted and staff believing organisations are not doing enough to protect them, according to new research.

The research, led by a collaboration between the universities of Exeter, Surrey and Glasgow, and the Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery, looks at the extent of sexual misconduct within the UK surgical workforce in the last five years. It found that two-thirds of women (63.3 per cent) had been the target of sexual harassment from colleagues, along with almost a quarter of men (23.7 per cent).

Participants reported instances of rape at work, as well as in other work-related contexts including teaching spaces, conferences, and after-work events with colleagues.

The research found nearly a third of women (29.9 per cent) had been sexually assaulted by a colleague, while the majority of participants (89.5 per cent of women, 81 per cent of men) say they have witnessed some form of sexual misconduct. Sexual coercion was common, with 10.9 percent of women having experienced forced physical contact linked to career opportunities.

The study also found there is a widespread lack of faith in accountable organisations’ adequacy to deal with sexual misconduct. These included NHS Trusts who have a duty to protect the workforce, the General Medical Council (GMC), the British Medical Association (BMA), Health Education England, and the Royal Colleges.

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