Big British businesses like Boots and Barclays are set to introduce a “silver quota” to harness the talent of the country’s older workforce
It’s no secret that Britain’s got an ageing population and that businesses are facing a huge skills gap. And in a bid to tackle both these hurdles head-on, eight major UK companies have agreed to recruit more older workers. This pledge will see the number of over-50s in their workforce to 12% by 2022.
The list of companies committing to hiring more senior workers includes brands like the Co-op, Boots and Barclays as well insurance company Aviva. These powerhouses have also pledged to publish their data on the ages of their employees as part of a government initiative to secure an extra one million roles for older workers over the next five years.
This commitment is being spearheaded by Business in the Community, the charity promoting a responsible businesses culture in the UK. The organisation is urging more companies to join the group of eight in signing the pledge and publish data on the ages of their workers, arguing that quotas are vital to avoid 7.5 million roles being left unfulfilled. “The UK simply cannot meet its growth and productivity objectives without adapting to retain, recruit and develop people aged over 50,” said Rachael Saunders, age at work director at Business in the Community.
This news follows the government’s appointment of Business in the Community’s Age at Work leadership team in September 2016. Led by Andy Briggs, who’s also CEO of Aviva, the team’s main objective is championing the interests of older workers. Commenting on the pledge, Briggs said: "The UK is facing a colossal skills gap, and older workers are vital to filling it. Businesses can show leadership here through committing to real change and actively seeking to recruit more over 50s into their organisations."
But some people doubt that this measure will effectively close the UK’s talent gap. One of the skeptics is Nick Elwell-Sutton, employment partner at Clyde & Co, the law firm. Speaking with Personnel Today, he said: “There has been plenty of talk about plugging the ever-widening skills gap, which is likely to get worse because of Brexit. However, it seems unlikely that the over-50s will be the ultimate solution.” Elwell-Sutton also believes that the divorce from the EU will affect businesses relying on low-skilled labour like the hospitality sector. He thinks it's less likely to have an impact on more skilled, managerial roles. “These roles are often minimum wage and, for the time-being, zero-hours contracts,” he said. “Unless businesses can make the roles more attractive then it seems unlikely that the majority of older workers would want these jobs.”
Whether or not this initiative will end up plugging the UK’s talent gap, we applaud the efforts being made by big business to bring more people into the workforce. Let’s hope startups and smaller firms follow suit.