Why more over-50s should consider contracting

Thursday 2nd March, 2017
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Contractor Info

In order for the UK to successfully navigate its way through the ongoing skills shortage, one million extra over-50s will need to remain in work between now and 2022.

This is the opinion of Andy Briggs, the government's champion for older workers, who believes that there are significant benefits to be had both for businesses and for workers themselves if more over-50s carry on working instead of retiring.

As such, contracting and freelancing could be suitable options for members of this demographic, allowing them to keep their foot in the door of the world of work without the demands of a full-time role.

With this in mind, we take a look at Mr Briggs' proposal, before exploring the benefits of keeping over-50s in work for both businesses and older individuals.

UK businesses told to recruit more over-50s

Mr Briggs wants to see all organisations in the UK increasing the proportion of older workers in their workforce by 12 per cent over the next five years.

There are currently around 15 million people aged between 50 and 69 in the UK, but just nine million of these are in work, leaving major industries to struggle with skills shortages.

What's more, 14.5 million jobs will be created between now and 2022, but only seven million new young people will enter the country's workforce during this period, meaning approximately 7.5 million roles will be left unfilled.

Therefore, in an attempt to combat the skills gap, the government wants to see the number of older people in work reach ten million by 2022 - something Mr Briggs has called "an ambitious yet necessary target".

He stated: "Older people can be written off by their employers, but we are asking employers to consider carefully the overwhelming benefits of having a diverse and representative workforce, and then to act on it.

"We live in an ageing society, so it is critical that people are able to work for as long as they need and want to. Many people aged over 50 want to continue to develop their careers, learn new skills, try new things and also share their broad knowledge and experience."

Benefits for businesses

Businesses can learn a lot from older workers. These individuals have 30 or more years of experience under their belts, so continuing to employ them on a contract or freelance basis can provide organisations with access to valuable expertise that these workers have spent decades honing.

And of course there is the advantage that they are less likely to succumb to the struggles of the skills shortage if positions are filled by workers of any age. With Britain's exit from the European Union fast approaching, an increasing number of firms may be looking to take on workers for short-term periods in order to gain access to their skills temporarily while the country navigates its way through this as yet uncertain landscape.

It also gives older workers the opportunity to learn from their younger counterparts if they continue to work on a freelance basis. The younger generation is thought to be more tech-savvy, so over-50s could learn valuable digital skills from them that could help to enhance their eventual retirement and open up new opportunities for their own future.

Benefits for older people

The benefits of continuing to offer their services to organisations on a freelance or short-term contract basis can also be significant for workers themselves.

There are the obvious financial benefits for a start; continuing to work means a person can continue to earn money, allowing them to save more for their eventual retirement.

But there are also physical and mental health benefits to be gained. Carrying on working means over-50s can keep their minds active for longer, which is something that has been proven to prevent the development of degenerative conditions such as dementia in the past.

In addition, having to get up and go out to work on a regular basis can keep people physically fit as well, while finding the right semi-retirement balance can leave workers with more time to spend going for walks or taking part in exercise classes during time that would have usually been spent at work.

Meanwhile, new research carried out by the What Works Centre for Wellbeing led to the discovery that easing into retirement by freelancing or working part time in the run-up to leaving work for good can have significant benefits for people's mental health and overall happiness.

Mark Bryan, an economics expert from the University of Sheffield who co-wrote the research, explained: "The evidence on wellbeing points to the importance of giving people control over their retirement decision - both through support for people who wish to stay in work and decent pension provision for those who wish to retire."



Mr Briggs wants to see all organisations in the UK increasing the proportion of older workers in their workforce by 12 per cent over the next five years. There are currently around 15 million people aged between 50 and 69 in the UK, but just nine million of these are in work, leaving major industries to struggle with skills shortages.

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