Bureaucracy prevents older staff from returning to work Business

In the year to September 2019, more than 1.3 million people aged 65 and over were employed. More than half a million of them were over 70 – a staggering figure given that half a century ago the average life expectancy was 72. Some 88% of those in their 70s worked in the private sector, many of whom held senior positions in large organisations. Many were entrepreneurs.

The notion of the elderly as a societal burden is far from accurate. Not all of them sail, golf or garden: a significant proportion choose to make a significant economic contribution.

Consider how intergenerational warriors insisted that the “elders” should be locked out of society, allowing everyone else to continue their pre-coronavirus lives during the pandemic. And even before Covid, proponents of a modern payroll fallacy warned that job-locking baby boomers were limiting opportunities for young people, ignoring the tendency of many older workers to run their own businesses, creating rather than threatening jobs.

The extent to which this ageism has pervaded the workplace is disputed. Legislation to protect against age discrimination was introduced 16 years ago, but there have been relatively few complaints compared to other grounds of discrimination.

Either way, the government increasingly sees it as a problem that needs to be fixed – and when politicians go down this path, new or tighter regulation tends to be at the end.

Since 2010, the list of challenges to freedom of contract has grown enormously. The state is now trying to control hiring and firing procedures, the number of leaves, sick pay, maternity pay and the number of hours that can be worked. We have minimum wage, parental leave, flexible working rights and automatic enrollment in private pensions.

Over the past two decades, occupational regulation has risen sharply to include one in five UK workers. These rules have a cost, even if they are often hidden.

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This notice was published: 2022-04-13 10:00:00

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