Unretirement: What does this mean for your business?

Recent analysis of the Office for National Statistics' (ONS) latest labour market data found economic activity levels for people aged 50 and over are at their highest levels since the beginning of the pandemic. The reason for this? Older workers are 'unretiring.'

Economic activity levels measure the number of people who are in work or who are looking for work. The study showed that there was an increase in economic activity of 116,000 amongst workers aged over 50 in March-May 2022, compared with the same period in 2021. The biggest increase was in men aged over 64, whose economic activity levels increased by 66,000, or 8.5% in one year. For females in the same age group, there was a 6.8% increase by 37,000.

Further research has shown that 32% of retired workers would consider returning to work at some point or were already working again after retirement. There are a number of different reasons why workers are keen to 'unretire.' For the majority, they said they would return for the mental and social stimulation that working provides. Others say they want to top up their pensions.

Similarly, as the cost of living continues to soar and people struggle with ongoing increases in household bills, many are coming out of retirement to put themselves, and their families, in a stronger financial position.

Employers should recognise the varying reasons why staff are unretiring and put measures in place to directly meet their needs and expectations. For example, if an employee returned to the workplace to boost their social interaction with others, offering them a homeworking arrangement would be ineffective and would unlikely be successful. Instead, placing them in a high-traffic area within the workplace, or giving them a role which involves high levels of interaction with others, will ensure the person remains motivated and satisfied, so more likely to perform well for the organisation.

Where employees are considering retirement, but haven't yet confirmed they wish to leave their position due to the stresses of non-work life (e.g. financial pressure of not working), employers may want to pro-actively implement measures to support this transitional period. For example, introducing a phased-retirement policy as part of wider flexible working benefits.

This allows employees to gradually decrease their working hours and responsibilities, whilst still being on hand to support handovers and the development of those moving into their role. Such an arrangement can be equally beneficial for both the employer and employee since there are clear standards and expectations with the work that has to be completed.

Employees remain engaged since they understand and are keen to meet the organisation's key goals. In turn, employers remain satisfied with the level of productivity and co-operation. More organisations may wish to leverage the benefits that phased retirement can bring and introduce policies to this effect.

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