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The over 50s quit the workplace en masse after the pandemic but now financial worries are forcing hundreds of thousands to “unretire” simply to make ends meet. Many over the State Pension age of 66 are being driven to work into later life.
Some want to remain social and active, others have no choice and must battle on despite health problems.
Returning to work demands picking up new skills and facing down employer prejudice in the new “woke” workplace.
Half a million people aged between 50 and 65 have left the workforce since the pandemic began, official figures show.
Many took early retirement after falling ill, losing their job, taking on new caring duties, or simply deciding they’d had enough.
One in 10 retirees have now returned to work or are considering doing so, according to research from Paragon Bank. Money is a major consideration, as 42 percent of over 55s feel worse off than this time last year.
It is easier said than done, though, as many employees can still be sniffy about hiring older workers, with around 400,000 looking for work.
The over-50s are more than twice as likely to be unemployed for two years or longer if they lose their job, according to research from Rest Less.
Many have heartbreaking stories of being repeatedly turned down in favour of younger staff.
Nobody should be written off at 50, said Victoria Tomlinson, founder of Next-UP, an online platform for employees nearing retirement. “Employers need to offer greater flexibility. Older people will work longer if they are given a real work/life balance.”
Professor Sophie Hennekam from the Audencia Business School called on employers to find out what really motivates older workers, because it isn’t just money. “Older employees particularly value being able to transfer their knowledge and experience to younger generations, and being allowed to do what they are good at.”
Employers should also appreciate what one older workers have to offer, said Sophie Gilmore, managing director at building skills specialist HybridTec. “Age brings lived experiences and softer skills such as resilience, critical thinking and empathy. These are all things that younger colleagues can draw upon.”
In return, older candidates need to embrace the challenge of learning new skills such as innovation and technology.
Gilmore said there is a vast range of support for adults looking to reskill, with no upper age limits. “Contact your local training provider, further education college or community learning group to find out what courses and qualifications are available.”
If you are keen to return to the workforce, consider what you really want from your career, said Amanda Augustine, careers expert at TopCV. “Do you want to work full-time or part time? Would you like to return to your previous line of work or try something new?
“Do you want to work from home, an office or have a hybrid arrangement? When it comes to company culture, what values matter most to you?”
The clearer your goals, the easier it will be to find appropriate jobs and evaluate opportunities, she said. “If you want to work in the same field, you may wish to enquire about vacancies with your former company as a ‘boomerang employee’.”
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Augustine suggests researching potential employers on company review sites like GlassDoor, Indeed and The Job Crow. “Look for signs of a toxic workplace.”
When attending an interview, prepare questions to help you decide whether this is the right opportunity for you. “Interviews should never be a one-sided conversation. As a candidate, you should be assessing the company as much as the interviewer is assessing you.”
Ask recruiters to describe the company culture, what type of people succeed there and whether flexible work arrangements are possible, she said.
Paula Allen, senior vice-president of research and total wellbeing at LifeWorks, has seen a surge in over-50s returning to work, but added: “Having had a taste of freedom, they want fair treatment and a sense of belonging.”
Society is changing rapidly, and so is the workplace. In our new diverse world, there is a place for older people, too, Allen added. “Inclusiveness is not only relevant for gender identity, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. It also relates to age.”
If you are fit, keen, bored at home, short of cash and ready to learn, it could be time to go back to work. There are benefits to being the unretiring type, but also challenges.
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