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Older workers should be cherished

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This pandemic has a lot to answer for, but your article on the Resolution Foundation’s report on the economic fallout from Covid-19 (UK workforce shrinks after sharp rise in people choosing to leave work, 23 November) highlighted a particularly dismal finding. Having left a legacy of over half a million more people economically inactive in the UK, coronavirus has caused participation in the workforce by those aged between 55 and 64 to fall by 1.2 percentage points – the biggest drop in any recession for 40 years.

This is very worrying, because having older workers and age diversity in the workplace makes such a positive contribution to employers, to society and to the workers themselves. We know that good work and good working conditions benefit workers’ physical and mental health, especially where employers and management can help ensure all their people are able to fulfil their potential.

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Yet employers must look after their people and recognise their value if they are to recruit and retain a productive workforce. They need to take a socially sustainable approach by designing better jobs, adjusting their workplaces and investing in training and skills, retraining and redeployment, as well as flexible working and phased retirement.

It’s time to invest in the skills, experience, knowledge transfer and stability that older people bring to their work. With a third of workers in developed countries estimated to be aged over 60 by 2050, we’re really going to need the full value and potential that they bring.
Ruth Wilkinson
Head of health and safety, Institution of Occupational Safety and Health

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