More than 50 employers, including Zurich Insurance UK and Virgin Hotels, have joined the Centre for Ageing Better scheme to help develop more age-friendly employers within weeks of its launch.
The pledge, a nationwide programme run by the Centre for Ageing Better, requires employers to commit to one action a year to improve the recruitment, retention and development of older workers.
Launching at a time when the employment gap between 35-49 and 50-64-year-olds stands at 15 percentage points and growing since the pandemic, employers signing the pledge have committed to improving work for people in their 50s and 60s.
Following a year of record vacancy rates alongside skills and labour shortages, the Age-friendly Employer Pledge participants are among increasing numbers of employers recognising the urgent need to harness the skills and experience of older workers.
Dr Emily Andrews, Deputy Director for Work at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “We are absolutely thrilled with the level of interest we have had from employers in our Age-friendly Employer Pledge in the weeks since its launch. We have had organisations across the country, from the Isle of Wight to Warrington to Llandovery, signing the pledge. We have had employers working in a broad range of sectors, including recruitment, charity, housing, finance and hospitality, get involved, and there are dozens more businesses and organisations registering an interest.
“This is a critical time for the country in terms of older worker’s participation in the labour market, and it is encouraging to see that many employers recognise the value that older workers can bring to their organisation, and the economy more broadly, and are prepared to take the actions required to ensure that they recruit, retain and train more older employees in the future.”
Under the Age-friendly Employer Pledge, businesses and organisations identify a senior sponsor for age inclusion within their workforce and ensure that age is specifically named within their Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policies.
Employers are also supported with practical guides and resources, including case studies and examples to help them improve their practice and a learning network to share challenges and successes with fellow employers.
Potential actions from participating employees include reducing age bias in recruitment and introducing flexible working, which is vital to helping those over 50 remain in work.
For example, pledged employer East Riding of Yorkshire Council offers staff free ‘Health MOTs’ to help them stay fit and well alongside a flexible retirement policy that allows the organisation to retain employees’ knowledge and expertise as they move towards eventual full retirement.
The pledge is one of the first steps in realising the Centre for Ageing Better’s vision of building an Age-Friendly Movement that encourages, inspires and enables the change needed to create better later lives for all. The movement includes a public-facing campaign to shift attitudes to ageing, and working with communities, industries and sectors to help them be more age-friendly and inclusive as the population ages.
Adam Gray, Regional Director of People, Virgin Hotels, said: “Virgin Hotels is delighted to be one of the first hospitality brands in the UK to sign the Centre for Ageing Better’s Age-friendly Employer Pledge. Diversity amongst our teammates is vital. It’s important that our teammates reflect the community that we host in the hotel as our guests.
“We value workers of any age and the differing skills and experience they bring to our hotels, creating a dynamic and engaging environment for guests and our team alike.
“Age-friendly really puts emphasis on valuing and engaging, more so than ever before, with people over 50 looking for an opportunity to work. Hospitality is often seen as a ‘young person’s game’, and this just isn’t the case. We are pleased to do everything we can to change that perception.”
Shaun Hicks, Chief Risk Officer, Zurich UK, said: “Zurich is proud to be an early signatory to the Age-friendly Employer Pledge. We look forward to sharing best practices and working with other businesses.
“We have already taken major strides to support a multi-generational workforce – being a flexible working employer, launching a menopause and carers policy and advertising all new roles as being available on a part-time, job-share and flex work basis.
“We aim to be a workplace where all employees can thrive, regardless of age, providing opportunities such as apprenticeships and reskilling. This helps us to attract and retain the best talent because it is the right thing to do. It is vital that employers address the needs of older workers, or risk losing their wealth of skills and experience.”
For more information on the Age-friendly Employer Pledge, click here.