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How an ageing workforce can revitalise your business

  1. Did you know?
  2. Three benefits older employees can bring to businesses
  3. How to retain experienced employees
  4. How to retrain existing staff
  5. How to recruit older employees
  6. Improving age management
  7. Next steps
  8. Other ways we can support your business

Older worker with younger worker

As the UK population continues to live longer and rewrite the rules of retirement, employers must increasingly consider the needs and expectations of older workers and embrace the often overlooked benefits of an ageing workforce.


The recent newspaper headlines about Joe Bartley, an 89-year-old ex-serviceman who advertised for a job in Goodrington, South Devon, have only served to underline the increasing appetite to work beyond the traditional retirement age. 

Over the last 30 years, the employment rate for people aged 50 to 64 has increased by 14%, while the employment rate for the 65+ age group has doubled (DWP, 2015). The removal of the Default Retirement Age (DRA) has also opened the door for people to work well into their sixties, seventies and even eighties.

However, an ageing population may pose significant challenges for businesses. With one third of the current workforce already over the age of 50, the labour market is likely to become tighter in future, and by 2022 the number of people in the workforce aged 16-49 is estimated to be 700,000 less than today.  

This has led some industry commentators, like Business in the Community (BITC) to predict a "recruitment black hole of 7.5 million", which traditional recruitment policies will struggle to fill. 

The message is clear: businesses can no longer simply recruit younger employees. As a result, the government has encouraged employers to adopt a Retain, Retrain and Recruit approach to older employees that rejects accepted wisdom about retirement and tackles age-discrimination in the workplace.

Did you know?

Three benefits older employees can bring to businesses

  1. Talent and experience
    Older workers can be just as productive as younger staff, add valuable experience and product knowledge, and are less likely to leave than younger staff.
  2. Better customer service
    As the population ages, employers may increasingly find that their customers age too. A workforce that understands your audience will help your business to stay relevant and add insight and empathy to your customer service.
  3. An age-diverse workplace
    Working in an age-diverse team brings a host of benefits, including fresh perspectives, knowledge sharing, new ideas and improved problem solving. (CIPD)

How to retain experienced employees

By providing more flexibility in the workplace. 

Employees over 50 may be looking for more flexible working arrangements and surveys have shown that over 40% of people aged 55-59 are looking to reduce their working hours. Employers should therefore consider flexible working practices and phased retirement, plus seek guidance on making the workplace meet the differing health and wellbeing needs of older workers. See also Advisory booklet - Flexible working and work-life balance .

How to retrain existing staff

Improving staff loyalty and retention 

When you consider that the average cost of training a new member of staff is £6,000, it makes sound commercial sense to retrain existing staff and reduce recruitment costs in the process. Acas provides guidance on developing your existing talent pool and flexible training courses that are ideal for employers wishing to up skill older members of staff, or offer additional training opportunities. Retraining could also help to improve overall staff loyalty and turnover. See pdf icon Age and the workplace: a guide for employers and employees [336kb].

How to recruit older employees

Avoiding discrimination

While the over 50s bring many benefits to businesses, the BITC's Missing Million report found that age discrimination continues to be prevalent in the modern workplace and that over one million over 50s have been forced into voluntary retirement. We provide downloadable guides and support to enable employers to create a positive working environment that values older workers, make the most of existing skills and improve staff recruitment.


Improving age management

An age-diverse workplace poses a number of different challenges for employers. Different staff can have different levels of experience, different approaches to communication and different motivations. So it is important to provide supervisors, line managers and employees with up-to-date age-management practices. Acas can help businesses to apply age-awareness to all areas of HR management, including recruitment and retention, training and development, job design, performance management, and the management of organisational culture.

Other ways we can support your business

Department for Work and Pensions video - Fuller Working Lives: What, How, Why?

Hear from employers about the advantages of taking age management in the workplace seriously.

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