How older staff can deal with Catch-55

Writing recently (Sep 4, 2013) in the Financial Times, award-winning business journalist Michael Skapinker offers some sound advice on how older workers can protect themselves from ‘the threat posed by younger employees’.

The gist of his article is that older workers should be proactive in fighting what has been termed ‘catch 55’ (older workers needing/wanting to work while employers want to replace them with younger staff).

His suggestions include:

Brazening it out – demonstrate your awareness of age discrimination legislation e.g. by asking what percentage of staff are over 50. This could be enough to see managers ‘retreat in fear’.

Becoming an expat – younger people with family commitments aren’t always keen on foreign postings, whereas older people may have fewer ties and a greater sense of adventure.

Taking a paycut – not for the same amount of work – but by, for example, reducing your week to four days, thereby cutting wage costs by 20%.

Branching out – developing other activities and interests in order to develop opportunities (some of them paying?) and a fulfilling life outside work.

Keeping fit – this will not only help you remain healthy it could also keep you looking younger and more alert.

The overall message seems to be that, as at any stage of your career, the more determination and initiative you demonstrate the greater your chances of success.

Skapinker writes periodically on age-related issues – he’s well-worth following.

At last, some evidence: older workers as productive as other employees

A new study by Age UK has found that older workers are as productive as their younger counterparts.

Research carried out by Essex Business School, on behalf of the charity  found that there was little evidence to back up disparaging but engrained stereotypes of older workers when it comes to productivity, health, commitment and flexibility.

They found that despite assumptions made by many employers, older workers are motivated and as willing to work as flexibly as younger workers.

They also found that while there was evidence of decline in some physical attributes in some, but not all, older workers,  there was little sign of a decline in overall productivity as older workers compensated for declines with skills and experience.

For further information see

Upper age limit for jury service to be raised

Confirmation that older people have a great deal of life experience and, these days, generally remain astute, savvy and mentally agile well into later life.

No, you really can’t do that!

Working over 50 is nothing if you live to be 100

Something to think about?

Over 50s – Introduction to Self-Employment – Glasgow

The Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise (PRIME) in partnership with Glasgow Libraries and Business Gateway is pleased to announce that it is running an introduction to self-employment in the Mitchell Library, Glasgow.

30 July 2013

Mitchell Library, North Street, Glasgow

G3 7DN

10.00am – 12.00am

This is an introductory course that would suit anyone who is considering setting up their own business. Covering a range of topics, such as the benefits of starting a business and how to create a business idea, this course will help you decide if becoming self-employed is the right option for you.

If you are already registered with PRIME then for this event please email;, and advise me at

For additional information and to register go to:

The Ageing Workforce – What’s Your Strategy?

A new primary research report ‘The Ageing Workforce – What’s Your Strategy?’ has just been released by an organisation called Talent Smoothie. In it, they ask 850 ‘baby boomer’ employees (their term) for their views on retirement versus working longer.

They also ask 13 organisations their views on the ageing workforce and what plans they have for change. Its case studies feature examples from Barclays Wealth, BMW, Coursera, GSK, Sodexo and Vita Needle; all of which, they report, are already anticipating, recognising and responding to ‘the ageing workforce trend’.

In their description of the report they say, ‘We invite you to read our report and then answer this question, Is your organisation taking this subject seriously enough?’

I think we know the answer to that one.

‘Age warfare’ or a bit of a moan?

A recent blog on the CIPD website talks about ‘age warfare’ being a new threat to workforce productivity.

Apparently, researchers from KPMG found growing inter-generational tension in the workplace with younger workers believing older colleagues are blocking their career development.

Nearly half of younger respondents (46 per cent) agreed that older members of staff need to retire so that younger colleagues have a chance of career progression. A similar proportion felt that a much older workforce would drain productivity.

Survey results also suggested that younger workers don’t feel they need to learn from their more experienced colleagues, with only 20 per cent of respondents recognising the value of learning from experienced older workers.

What older people felt about their younger colleagues is not reported.

Fortunately, Dianah Worman, public policy adviser at the CIPD, publicly refuted these findings in a letter to the FT: “The idea that younger people’s careers are being stifled by older workers retiring later perpetuates the lump of labour fallacy. In reality, the labour market operates on a far more complex basis than one of ‘one in one out’, she wrote.

What she failed to write, and maybe should have, is that the ‘dead man’s shoes’ scenario has been a fact of life in the workplace for generations. Of course, younger workers do have a point as they always have. But it’s also natural for anyone in the early stages of their career to look at their older, more experienced, and better rewarded colleagues, and have a bit of a moan.

It’s less age warfare and more human nature.

Perceptions of retirement

I regularly receive press releases from financial services companies relating to their (often quite useful) research into pension savings and retirement.

One this week told me nothing new but nevertheless, its opening sentence stopped me in my tracks:

 Anticipated retirement incomes, compared with what people are likely to actually receive, varies hugely across the UK, new research from AXA Wealth has revealed, creating a national shortfall of more than £4,500 – the cost of a cruise, a nearly new car or even a face lift.”

Bearing in mind that the figures they are talking about are that, on average, people think they will need £22,279.40 a year to live comfortably in retirement but with the savings plans they have in place they are likely to receive only £17,665.44 – this seems an extraordinary statement. Particularly as other research by MGM Advantage shows that around three quarters of a million people are continuing to work part-time post-retirement to supplement their income.

Expensive cruises and facelifts on an income – at best – of around £20,000?  How about paying the bills, underpinning the bank of mum and dad, and putting something by for future needs in old age? Aren’t these the things that older people actually need and want to spend their money on?

Or is it just me….?


What age is ‘retirement age’?

Last week The Employment Tribunal finally ended the much-publicised six-year legal battle between lawyer Leslie Seldon and his former firm Clarkson Wright and Jakes when it rejected his age discrimination claim.

Seldon, a partner in the firm, originally pursued the claim in 2007, after the firm forced him to retire from the partnership at age 65. At the time the default retirement age (DRA) applied to employees, but not to partners.

The Employment Tribunal said the retirement age was justified at the time Seldon retired in 2006, because of the need to reflect the expectations of the partners and associates, ensure succession and fulfil the needs of the partnership.

Commenting on the decision in a report in HR Magazine, Jonathan Exten-Wright, a partner at DLA Piper, made an interesting point when he said: “It is notable that the tribunal found that retirement at age 65 was reasonable in 2006 when Seldon was required to retire; it might not be the appropriate age now (as was expressly acknowledged by the tribunal) as the default retirement age has been abolished, the state pension age is continuing to rise and expectations of employees working longer are more widespread.”

This underlines the ongoing issue of perceptions of age in the workplace and, in particular, the relative age of those making decisions about older workers.

Is it not natural, for example, that a manager in their thirties would consider anyone over 60 as old and in decline? However, anyone who is over 60 would realize that this is a comparatively young age in relation to retirement and by no means indicative of either decreasing productivity or automatically declining motivation to work.

‘Retirement age’ whether employer-enforced or simply a transition to another lifestage that occurs at a particular time, has too long been linked to state pension age rather than the reality of being older today. Let’s hope that any employer seeking objective justification for the continued use of a retirement age in the future takes this important point into account and doesn’t simply revert to concepts of age that are no longer appropriate.

Click here for more

Active Ageing in the European Union

Anyone interested in the field of age and work may be interested in this new book which explores the adoption of ‘active ageing’ policies by EU15 nations and the impact on older peoples’ work and retirement policy options.

The book, written by  Kate Hamblin a Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, explores the labour market policies (including unemployment benefits, active labour market policies and partial pension receipt) and pension policies (pension principles, early retirement and incentives for deferral) adopted by these nations from the mid-1990s onwards.

Unfortunately the price, £55, puts it out of reach of most readers.

Further details at

The Ready for Ageing Alliance – a new charity sector coalition

We note and welcome a new coalition, The Ready for Ageing Alliance, formed to increase the pressure on Government and all political parties to face up to the major changes and challenges from our rapidly ageing society.

Like other commentators we wish it every good fortune but we have reservations. Some of those reservations have been adequately expressed elsewhere and we link you below to Dick Stroud’s excellent blog 50-Plus Marketing on the subject.

We have long been asking for some statesmanlike approach to the subject of growing older but have seen very little so far. Indeed only this week we have seen major press coverage devoted to the exceedingly trivial issue of who should or should not receive free bus passes and TV licences. This does no credit to the media nor to the politicians involved but does highlight the very poor level of debate currently taking place.

Although the participating bodies in this new alliance are all much esteemed they do, in my opinion, have a fatal weakness – they are mainly concerned with today’s existing old, not tomorrow’s. As such they do not feature all that highly in most people’s consciousness.

The real way to get people involved in ageing issues is to make today’s young realise that this is coming for them, like it or not, and any change now will be for their benefit. And if they want improvement they must take personal and collective responsibility for their futures. Therefore, I would argue for a somewhat different mix of pressure groups to extend the sphere of influence.