Monday, 17 January 2011

Older workers are worse off for redundancy, recruitment and reemployment Wise Owls research reveals

Over 50s council workers are being made redundent at over 3 times the rate of the their younger counterparts, new research has revealed today.

The stark findings came to light when Wise Owls, the leading over 50s support agency, used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain statistics on the age diversity of employees within all the National and London borough councils.

The data revealed that over 50s made up on average nearly 60% of all redunduncies within the councils. This is over three times the average of the UK workforce nationally, which also shows over 50s redundancies across the UK to be at their worst rate for over a decade (ONS). These figures come at a time when massive cuts are still to take place throughout the public sector, leaving older workers feeling unfairly targetted.

Further condemnation focussed on the recruitment practices of the councils after Wise Owls data showed the over 50s are less than half as likely to be recruited than the under 50s. The proportion of new recruits to the councils in the last year who were over 50 accounted for as little as 18% of recruits for County councils just and 10% of recruits in London Boroughs. This is despite 35% of the councils’ workforce being made up of over 50s.

A further blow to the job security of older workers is the liklihood of over 50s finding reemployment. Analysis of the ONS data showed that since the recession began, the remployment rate of over 50s has fallen to its lowest level in a decade. In the ‘boom’ years of 2004-2006, over 50s accounted for over 20% of all reemployment nationally. In the last year that figure fell to 16%.

It is clear that age is now the leading factor in making staff redundant and that it is the over 50s women and men from all backgrounds who will take the biggest hit from the Coalition’s cuts.

Chris Walsh - Director of Wise Owls, commented ‘There seems to be a complacancy within government that by forcing staff aged 50+ to take redudancy it will be less painful than for younger workers. Traditionally older workers have been ‘encouraged’ to take ‘voluntary’ redundancy when cuts are needed and it looks as if that mindset has not changed. However experience from the last cull of older council workers in the 90s showed that those made redundant often failed to get another job, leaving themselves and their families in poverty, while denuding the council of key knowledge and experience, which meant some had to be re-hired as consultants. We now offer a helpline for older workers to find them meaningful work and a sympathetic ear’

Wise Owls carried out the research as part of their wider ‘Age Equality’ campaign aimed at promoting age diversity in the workplace, demanding that the government carry out an Age Equality Impact Assessment to include an age audit of employees across the public sector.

Mr. Walsh said, “We are forced to use the FOI to get this vital information as the government has refused up till now to analyse the impact of the cuts on age, either in relation to the numbers being laid off or by who suffers from the impact of the cuts in public services. There are no existing government baseline figures to show whether age equality in the workplace is improving or getting worse, and we think this is because either they don’t care or do not want the public to know the full extent of employment ageism in the public sector. These statistics offer a starting point for the government to take up this issue by publishing a league table of all public sector employers in relation to age and employment and to start to carry out and publish age impact assessments of their cuts. This blatant attack on staff because of their age is both immoral and illegal.”

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