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Older Workers


Scotland's population is ageing and the proportion of older people in the workforce is increasing. The 2011 census figures show that there are now more people aged 65 and over than under 15 in Scotland, the first time that a census has recorded this.

With people living longer and many having to supplement their retirement income through working beyond the state pension age, the UK Government has announced that the state pension age will be increased to 67 by 2028. In view of the above, older people are playing an increasingly important role in Scotland's economy but with Annual Population Survey data showing that the 50-64 year old employment rate is 63%, many older people face barriers in finding and retaining employment. 

Barriers Faced

The barriers faced by older people include:

·          Employer discrimination (often termed as ageism).

·          Obsolete skills (often in relation to computing/IT skills).

·          Competition from younger workers.

·          Lower level formal qualifications than younger people. Annual Population Survey data for 2012 shows that in Scotland 47% of 25 to 49 year olds were qualified to N/SVQ level 4 or higher; amongst 50-64 year olds the proportion was 33%.

·          Older people are less likely to engage with employment services due to a lack of awareness, distrust of what is on offer, or a sense of pride and self sufficiency.

·          Poverty and residence in deprived areas, which tend to affect those who have had employment gaps due to child rearing or unemployment more. Widowed or divorced women can therefore be at a particular risk of poverty. 

·          Health problems.

Policies and Interventions

The Scottish Government is working to enable older people to live healthy, active and independent lives. It works with the UK Government in tackling pensioner poverty. Providing security and dignity for older people is central to the Scottish Government's social justice agenda. It wants older people to have the services they need, and to be involved in the planning of those services. A long term strategy, All Our Futures: Planning for a Scotland with an Ageing Population, was published in March 2007. The strategy outlines the opportunities and choices available to people as they get older and addresses the issues of an ageing population.

Interventions to help older people find and retain employment when they need it can include the following:

·          Providing opportunities for older people to update their skills.

·          Early intervention to prevent poverty and health problems in older age.

·          Raising awareness of and tackling age discrimination.

·          Additionally, having flexibility (e.g. of hours and location) within a job can help older people to stay in work, as it allows them to fit in other things in their lives such as caring responsibilities and health issues, new hobbies, new skills being learnt and travel plans.

The Equality Act

The Equality Act (2010) is the main piece of legislation that addresses discrimination and inequality in the UK. It brought together nine separate pieces of legislation into one. The majority of the provisions came into force on 1 October 2010. The following are the characteristics which are protected under the Equality Act (2010):

·          Age

·          Disability

·          Gender reassignment

·          Marriage and civil partnership

·          Pregnancy and maternity

·          Race

·          Religion or belief

·          Sex

·          Sexual orientation

The law prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination relating to any of these characteristics and individuals who feel they have been discriminated against on any of the above grounds can bring an action in court against the perpetrator. The law also prohibits victimisation of persons who have brought action against a perpetrator or given evidence in connection with proceedings under the Act. 

The Act prohibits discrimination across a broad range of areas including employment, the provision of goods and services to the public and the exercise of public functions. In addition a Public Sector Equality Duty came into force in April 2011. It assigned public bodies (and others discharging public functions, such as third sector organisations) the following duties:

·          Eliminating unlawful discrimination.

·          Advancing equality of opportunity. 

·          Fostering good relations.

Specific duties within the Act require fit-for-purpose equality monitoring to be undertaken, at both national and local levels. As a result, a number of listed public authorities in Scotland are now required to publish a set of equality outcomes and to report on progress every two years. The specific duties also require the listed public authorities to undertake Equality Impact Assessment of new or revised policies and practices and to consider relevant evidence when making their assessments.


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