5 min read

The changing view of the over 50s workforce

We’re all living longer and with the retirement age being nudged up by the government, it’s likely that many of us will be working for longer too. But whilst staying in employment past retirement might seem daunting for some, others will see this as a cause for celebration.

A teacher works with a group of children in the classroom.

With predictions of 700,000 fewer 16-49 year olds in the UK labour market over the next decade, and a whopping 3.7 million more over 50 workers, those over 50s who choose to carry on working are likely to become a vital pool of labour for employers1.

There are already increasing numbers of over 50s in employment. The latest labour market data reveals that 4,860,000 men and 4,140,000 women over 50 are now in work. These figures have risen by 9.5% for men and 11% for women in the last four years2.

A level of Maturity

We’re particularly proud of our age-diverse workforce at OneFamily:

“Older workers bring with them a level of maturity, aptitude for engaging with our customer profile, flexibility and experience. As an over 50s specialist, we pride ourselves in understanding our market. Having a mature workforce helps us to deliver the empathy that is needed to support customers through difficult times” says HR Executive, Kathleen Tong.

Organisations are starting to recognise how productive older workers are. For instance, McDonald’s has noted 20% higher performance in outlets where workers aged 60 and over are employed as part of a multi-generational workforce3.

Flexible working for all

Following a recent comment from Pensions minister Steve Webb declaring that the older generation of workers are a ‘vast untapped talent’, the Government has introduced a flexible working scheme giving all employees the legal right to request flexible working. This is great news – particularly for those of us approaching retirement who may be keen to reduce working hours. Or for those in the sandwich generation, juggling between caring for elderly relatives and working commitments.

“Flexible employment can be attractive to the over 50s, for example, the semi-retired, or those with dependent relatives” says Kathleen.

Obviously staying in employment for longer has its financial advantages. But it can also bring a whole host of social benefits too. Keeping active and staying connected to a range of people can help to enrich your life and give you the impetus to try new things.

Here are five well known organisations who take pride in their older workforce and have shaped their work ethics around their needs.


The DIY chain scrapped the default retirement age back in the 1990s, after conducting an experiment at a Macclesfield store which staffed entirely over 50s for a trial period. The project saw 18% higher profits with six times less staff turnover. Over a quarter (28%) of its workforce is over the age of 50 and B&Q is a founding member of the Employers Forum on Age. This is a network created by employers to remove barriers to an age-balanced workforce4.


The telecoms giant allows staff to work well past 65 and has several policies to help its older employees including the Workfit programme. In 2011 it had almost 2,500 employees over 60 and around 38% of its total workforce was over 505.


The energy group which owns British Gas abolished its default retirement age long before the legislation change. In 2013, nearly 30% of employees were aged between 45 and 65. British Gas have  introduced increased opportunities for older workers by removing upper age limits for their apprenticeship schemes and including mature graduates on their graduate programmes6.

Marks & Spencer

The retailer has operated without a default retirement age since 2001 and in 2006 introduced flexible retirement – giving staff the opportunity to retire and take their pension while working reduced hours. Through this programme, Marks & Spencer has doubled the number of 65+ employees7.


The supermarket has been actively recruiting workers over 50 for some years and has extended learning and development opportunities for older employees. They currently have 11,100 staff over 60 and their eldest colleague is 94 years of age8.

These are all sterling examples of age-friendly employers. It’s reassuring to know that there are companies out there welcoming older workers with open arms. And on terms that are much more flexible than in the past. Whilst the prospect of working longer can be daunting, there are more and more initiatives coming into place to help make our working lives easier.


1 CIPD (14 July, 2014) ‘Government appoints older workers’ employment champion’ [online]. Available from www.cipd.co.uk
2 Office for National Statistics ‘Labour market statistics Jan-Mar 2014’ [online]. Available from www.ons.co.uk
3 50 Plus Networks ‘Employing the 50+ business benefits’ [online]. Available from www.50plusworks.com
4 B&Q (4 February, 2014) ‘B&Q’s oldest worker celebrates retirement at age 90’ [online]. Available from www.media.diy.com
5 Moneywise (December, 2011) ‘Five top employers of older people’ [online]. Available from www.moneywise.co.uk
6 Centrica (October, 2014) ‘Valuing our older people’ [online]. Available from ww.centrica.com
7 ARRP (2011) ‘AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50 Award’ [online]. Available from www.aarp.org
8 Sainsbury’s (2014) ‘Great place to work factsheet’ [online]. Available from www.sainsburys.co.uk

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