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Older workers' warned of ‘redundancy' as furlough ends - ‘Full impact yet to be felt'

Daily Express logo Daily Express 28/09/2021 Rebekah Evans
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Today marks the eve of the furlough scheme coming to a conclusion, however, while it has protected millions of jobs, there are concerns about the futures of many workers over the age of 50. A study undertaken by Rest Less, a digital community and advocate for people in their fifties, sixties and beyond, found the jobs market was "precarious" for older workers. Its research showed that nearly 600,000 more over 50s are now deemed either economically inactive or unemployed when compared to two years ago.

Analysis of data by the organisation showed people aged 50 and older on furlough at the end of July accounted for 35 percent of the total number of people still on furlough.

Out of the 543,700 over 50s remaining on the scheme in the most recently published Government data, Rest Less said 454,900 were aged 50-64, while 88,000 were aged 65 and over.

The group has expressed its worry that the pandemic has "devastated" the job market for older workers over the past two years.

More long-term trends have seen the over 50s drive significant numbers of employment growth over recent decades, but there are fears this could essentially be reversed.

READ MORE: State pension alert as 'middle income pensioners squeezed'

furlough older workers © Getty furlough older workers

The matter could also create problems on a personal level, with many older workers unsure what to do next given the precarious jobs environment.

Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, said: "The loss of any large proportion of society from the workforce is cause for significant concern, and risks holding back the economic recovery for all.

"Whilst for some workers aged 50 and older, economic inactivity is a choice and a planned exit from the workforce, many others are finding themselves faced with an early retirement they are neither financially or emotionally prepared for."

Challenging circumstances have indeed been faced by one woman, Diana Gaglio. The 53-year-old from Bedfordshire was on furlough between March to November 2020, after spending the past 14 years working as an entertainment manager for a holiday company.

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Her role was international, and she often spent seven months in one country before moving on to another during the winter months.

But when she was placed on furlough, her contract was terminated with one month's notice, and no redundancy payment - as this was an international contract.

Disheartened, Ms Gaglio moved back to her hometown in Bedfordshire at the end of last year to look for work opportunities.

She found temporary roles, and has been working in a COVID-19 centre since March 2021. But with this role due to come to an end shortly, she has been required to apply for numerous jobs.

furlough September 2021 © EXPRESS furlough September 2021

Some roles have been in line with her field of interest, while others have been totally random and outside of her industry.

Ms Gaglio has expressed her worry about the impact of her age in securing a new role, as well as her experiences of ageism throughout the recruitment process.

She cited one example where a recruiter asked her how old she was, and upon questioning why that knowledge was necessary, said: "Some employers have expectations. I don't want to put you forward if you are not in the right age group."

Similar circumstances are being faced by frustrated Britons right across the country, and there are major concerns about the impact this will have on these individuals going forward.

Mr Lewis added: "The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the job prospects of many in their 50s and 60s but we fear the full impact is yet to be felt.

"With more than half a million people aged 50 or older still on furlough at the last count, we may well see hundreds of thousands of hard working, experienced older workers enter redundancy and ultimately find themselves looking for a new job in the run up to Christmas.

"The jobs market is polarised at the moment. On the one hand, we have record job vacancies and companies struggling to hire talent in key areas - for example HGV drivers and healthcare.

"On the other side, unemployment levels across many age groups have yet to recover and we are seeing huge falls in economic activity amongst midlifers.

"Much more can be done to help bridge these gaps through intensive retraining and accelerated assessment programmes."

LinkA Treasury spokesperson told Express.co.uk: "Our £400billion Plan for Jobs is working - nearly two million fewer people are now expected to be out of work than was previously feared.

"Furlough was the right thing to do to protect almost 12 million jobs when COVID-19 was at its peak, but now restrictions have eased, people are returning to work, and the scheme is naturally winding down, with 194,000 more people aged 50-64 on payrolls compared to a year ago.

"We're doubling down on our plan as the economy rebounds - refocusing our support on giving people of all ages the skills and opportunities they need to get back into work, progress and earn more, including older workers through our 50 Plus: Choices offer."

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