Over 50s bearing brunt of Covid-19 redundancies

The number of over 50s employees made redundant amid the pandemic has almost tripled year-on-year, according to figures published today.

The age group has been the hardest hit across the workforce and although overall redundancies have fallen since they peaked last Autumn, the level is reducing more slowly among older workers.

Analysis of Office of National Statistics data by over 50s online community “Rest Less” shows there were 107,000 over 50s made redundant between November and January 2021 - an increase of more than 70,500 or 195 per cent year on year

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The redundancy rate of those over 50 is now higher than all other age groups and currently stands at 12.8 per thousand employees.

Layoffs among older workers have almost tripled year-on-year as the pandemic took its toll.Layoffs among older workers have almost tripled year-on-year as the pandemic took its toll.
Layoffs among older workers have almost tripled year-on-year as the pandemic took its toll.

There were also estimated to be nearly 1.3 million over 50s on furlough at the end of February, 28 per cent of the total furloughed workforce.

Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less, said: “While there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the economy starting to open up, it’s clear that businesses are far from out of the woods yet, with many still struggling to survive and the level of redundancies remaining historically high.

“Whilst the extra extension to the furlough scheme has stemmed the flow of redundancies for now, redundancy rates amongst the over 50s remain stubbornly high and are the highest of all age groups.”

Lewis warned that with an estimated 1.3 million workers over the age of 50 still on furlough, there is a very real danger of a “tsunami of redundancies” amongst workers in their 50s and 60s when struggling employers are required to increase their contribution to the furlough scheme from July.

"This is of concern to all of us, as previous research has shown that once unemployed, workers over the age of 50 are two and a half times more likely to drift into long term unemployment than their younger counterparts due to a mix of age discrimination in the recruitment process and a lack of accessibility to tailored retraining programmes.‘With the state pension now standing at 66 for both men and women, without more tailored government support - similar to the scale and breadth of initiatives being put in place for younger workers - large-scale, long-term unemployment of this talented section of the population risks removing the engine room of growth for the entire UK economy.”

Kim Chaplain, associate director at the Centre for Ageing Better, said the figures show how devastating the impact of the pandemic has been on over 50s.

“This is particularly worrying because we know that over 50s are likely to struggle more than any other group to get back into work – so we risk seeing many of these people leaving the workforce for good,” she said.

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“In the months ahead, it’s vital that we build back a multi-generational workforce. Our economy needs both the direct contribution of experienced older workers and the support they provide to other, less experienced groups. We need to see targeted employment support to help over 50s back to work, and a strong message from government that not only is this group just as entitled to work as younger workers, they also provide a valuable contribution we cannot afford to lose.”

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