Budget ‘returnerships’: Will Jeremy Hunt’s plans to get over 50s back to work, work?
Scrapping the lifetime allowance on pensions was just one of several measures announced in the Spring Budget aimed at getting the over 50s back to work,
Many argue the move will only affect one per cent of the population, and was aimed at stopping an exodus of NHS doctors – who have often built up sizeable pension pots.
Hunt said rather than labelling over 50s ‘older’ workers they should instead be considered ‘experienced’.
The government estimates 3.5m people of pre-retirement age, a number which increased by 320,000 following the Covid-19 pandemic, are economically inactive.
Hunt claimed that his measures could help add an extra one million extra to the UK’s workforce, which is experiencing a skills shortage
“Older people are the most skilled and experienced people and turning 50 is a moment of anxiety rather than an anticipation of two decades of fulfillment.”
As well as increasing funding of its midlife MOT strategy from 8,000 to 40,000, a type of older apprenticeship – or ‘returnership’ will be offered to over 50s.
The scheme will aim to re-kill and up-skill over 50s and will focus on flexibility and previous experience.
Returnerships and MOTs – for the over 50s
- A new ‘returnerships’ apprenticeship targeted at the over 50s will refine existing skills programmes to make them more accessible to older workers, giving them the skills and support they need to find a recognisable path back into work.
- The midlife MOT offer will be expanded and improved to ensure people get the best possible financial, health and career guidance well ahead of retirement. There will be an enhanced digital midlife MOT tool and an expansion of DWP’s in person midlife MOTs for 50+ Universal Credit claimants, aiming to reach 40,000 per year.
The scheme’s details have yet to be unveiled and although they were broadly welcomed, experts argued that UK men and women of all ages needed to be encouraged ‘back to work’.
Becky O’Connor, director of public affairs at PensionBee, an online pension provider, said the move was to welcomed.
She said: “Older workers often feel like they can’t find the right kind of jobs for them. Many would prefer more flexible and part-time work. So a concerted effort to match older workers who want to work with roles that are suitable is also welcome news. Returner programmes for parents have been successful in the past.”
Anthony Painter, the Chartered Management Institute’s (CMI) policy director, said: “Supporting over-50s back to work, where possible, will be critical to plugging our chronic skills gap, returning to pre-pandemic employment levels, and building an economy which works for all generations.
“The Chancellor must prioritise the skills our economy needs, including basic digital skills, the skills needed to succeed in the emerging green economy, and crucially, management and leadership skills. With one in three job postings directly related to leadership, we must couple older workers’ experience with the hard management skills needed to boost Britain’s productivity.
“The success of the approach will rely on managers changing their attitudes toward hiring older workers. Our research shows that just four out of 10 of managers are open to hiring people aged between 50 and 64 ‘to a large extent.’ We need businesses to shake off this stigma and embrace the opportunity to bring in a new wealth of talent.
Painter added that the CMI was calling on the UK Government to introduce a ‘Help to Hire’ initiative to help small businesses recruit over-50s.
“Similar to the Government’s existing Help to Grow: Management scheme, the programme would subsidise leaders in small firms to undertake an intensive course covering everything from adopting digital technology to sourcing new potential markets. A ‘Help to Hire’ scheme would complement the newly-announced returnships for older workers.”
David Sinclair, chief executive at the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC), said ILC’s research highlighted the missing million – people over 50 forced to leave the workforce far earlier than they wanted to or could afford to – 10 years ago.
” But successive governments failed to heed the warnings, and little was done to address the challenge.”
Andy Briggs, group chief executive of of Phoenix Group and the UK Government business champion for older workers, said ensuring that older workers are not forgotten was a step in the right direction .
” We know that people are living longer and we cannot address UK productivity without using the talents of all ages in the workforce. For people to work longer and to remain in meaningful work, working practices need to change, which will benefit the UK economy, businesses, and individuals.”
“This means that work should be ‘levelled up’ for a much wider group of people, with more flexibility and more opportunities to recruit, retrain and retain colleagues.
“Businesses have a responsibility to help all employees progress their careers, with both individuals and businesses benefitting from lifelong learning. More experienced, older workers offer a wealth of knowledge but are often written-off or overlooked due to myths about lack of ability, desire or ambition.
“Age is no barrier to learning and businesses should invest for all so they enjoy the benefits of greater retention and more skilled employees.”
“With an estimated 2.5 million people on long-term sick, the situation is worse today – and social, economic and health inequalities have worsened.”
“We also must do far more to make sure people don’t leave in the first place. We must support everyone through their working lives through investment in policies which prevent ill health, enable flexible working, encourage lifelong learning and financial planning.”