Press release: Business in the Community calls for urgent improvements to over 50s employment as UK faces talent gap of millions

  • New Business in the Community report, launched during Responsible Business Week, calls for urgent changes to over 50s employment to help more older people stay in work for longer
  • With the number of people aged over 65 set to double by 2050, it is crucial that people work up to and beyond state pension age to fund an ageing population
  • Without tackling barriers to retention and recruitment of over 50s, the UK economy faces a predicted recruitment black hole of 7.5 million jobs by 2022 and long term economic challenges
  • Business in the Community has committed to supporting implementation of its new recommendations for business and government


Business in the Community today calls for business and government to make urgent changes to keep people aged 50 or older in work, as they launch a report highlighting the high number of over-50s forced out of employment. The charity is urging businesses to address these issues now to avoid an acute shortage of workers and serious economic challenges in the long term.

The new report, the third and final in the ‘Missing Million’ policy series, is launched during Responsible Business Week (20-26 April 2015) and highlights more than one million people who want to work but have been forced out of employment due factors such as health or redundancy. Barriers such as age-related bias and poor understanding of the needs of older workers are preventing many from staying in employment and finding new jobs.

Rachel Saunders, Age at Work Director for Business in the Community, said: “By 2022, 12.5 million new jobs will open up as people leave the workforce, and an additional 2 million new jobs will be created, yet there will only be 7 million younger people to fill these vacancies. We are facing a recruitment black hole of 7.5 million.”

The new report includes recommendations for business and government, informed through research undertaken with ILC-UK and consultation across different industry sectors. Among these, it calls for the government to give employees the legal right to request flexible working prior to starting a new job, rather than after 26 weeks of work; paid leave for carers; the introduction of a national skills strategy, including IT training, and better integration of health and social care services with employment.  

Business in the Community also appeals to employers to drive change through moves such as implementing unconscious bias training for everyone involved in recruitment; widening apprenticeships to the over-50s; introducing flexible benefits, and adapting training and development opportunities to people of different ages.

Rachael Saunders continued: “It is dangerous for our economic sustainability to assume that young people alone make up the future workforce. If we don’t act now to encourage and enable people to stay in work for longer, we will face a deficit of experienced, skilled and productive workers when we need them most.”

The UK is faced with an ageing population, with the number of people over 65 years old set to almost double from 10 million to around 19 million by 2050. To enable the government to pay for an ageing economy, the state pension age (SPA) is projected to rise in line with life expectancy, with many of us likely to be working up until the age of 70 and beyond. Without this rise in SPA, the cost burden of supporting each individual above pension age would be split between just 2 younger people by 2051, rather than the 3.2 who share this cost today.

Colin Williams at Aviva, said: “We welcome the recommendations outlined in this report. The first person who will live to 150 has already been born and, in the near future, it will be the norm for people to work well in to their 60s or even 70s to fund their own retirement. It is therefore crucial that we change the nature of employment now and address barriers to recruitment and retention, to ensure that working in later life is both possible and, importantly, fulfilling, in the future.”

Business in the Community will offer advice, support and tools to responsible businesses to help them implement the recommendations outlined in the report, to prevent people from leaving work before state retirement age, and enable later life working. Industries at highest risk include public administration, education, health, agriculture, forestry and fishing – all of which employ a high proportion of older workers. Full recommendations for business and government are detailed in the final report, The Missing Million – Recommendations for Action, available at



For more information about Business in the Community contact:

Rebecca Gregory, 0207 566 6670


Notes to editors

About the Missing Million policy series  

The Missing Million is a three-part policy series looking at the labour market challenges facing people aged 50 and over in the UK. This research has examined various sources of evidence on how older people relate to the labour market, the kinds of employment they seek and find, and the main barriers that reduce their ability to continue working into later life, especially up to State Pension Age.

The first report in the series, The Missing Million: Illuminating the Employment Challenges of the Over 50s, highlighted the large number of people aged 50-64 who are out of work involuntarily – pushed out through a combination of redundancy, ill health, or early retirement. This missing million people is still willing to work yet prevented from doing so.

The second report, The Missing Million: Pathways Back into Employment, found that older people find it harder to keep their jobs and face several barriers to re-employment, forcing many to make heavy compromises or seek self-employment. 

The third report, The Missing Million: Recommendations for Action, reflects on the major themes to have emerged through the research project and how these elements relate to public policy and business. It also provides recommendations on how both government and the business community can take the appropriate action necessary to provide greater opportunities for later life working, benefiting older individuals, businesses themselves, and society at large.

About Responsible Business Week

Responsible Business Week showcases best practice and expertise, providing organisations of all sectors and sizes with a fantastic opportunity to elevate their brand and leadership to key audiences including their employees, customers, policy makers, suppliers and the wider public.

This high-profile awareness week, run by us at Business in the Community, aims to demonstrate the ways in which business can work together with other organisations to deliver a fairer society and more sustainable future.  By doing so, we hope to inspire and equip many more businesses to drive their social and environmental value and innovate for sustainability.


About Business in the Community

Business in the Community is a business-led charity committed to shaping a new contract between business and society.

We have over 30 years experience forging better relationships between business and society, driven by a unique collaboration of business leaders. We stimulate action by challenging and supporting thousands of businesses to create a fairer society and a more sustainable future - through our local, national and international campaigns.

Business in the Community is one of The Prince’s Charities, a group of not-for-profit organisations of which The Prince of Wales is president.  Business In The Community acquired the Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise (PRIME) in October 2014 and its work is now a part of BITC. We campaign on behalf of the over 50s for a fairer labour market, free from age discrimination.

Further information available at


About ILC-UK

The International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK) is the leading think tank on longevity, ageing, and population change. Independent and non-partisan, we develop ideas, undertake research and create a forum for debate. Much of our work is directed at the highest levels of government and the civil service, both in London and Brussels. We have a reputation as a respected think tank which works, often with key partner organisations, to inform important decision-making processes. We are aided in this work by our Chief Executive, Baroness Sally Greengross, former director-general of Age Concern and now a cross-bench peer.