Give over-50s the right to work from home, Labour will say as they unveil their plan to tempt early retirees back to the workplace.
The party will launch a series of proposals aimed at encouraging older people to return to employment, including bespoke “get back to work lessons” and a major overhaul of job centres.
Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow work and pensions secretary, told The Telegraph that the out-of-work over-50s are “hugely experienced” and should be “championed” by ministers.
Middle-aged workers have quit the workplace in droves since the pandemic, with the number of jobless 50 to 64-year-olds rising to 3.6 million. Two in five cite sickness or disability as their reason for leaving work.
The UK is almost unique among rich developed countries in having a workforce that is smaller than before Covid, attributed in part to older professionals taking early retirement. It is feared that this is holding back the country’s economic growth as labour shortages push up inflation.
Labour will announce its multi-pronged approach to woo the middle-aged back into employment by introducing new rights for flexible working arrangements.
This will include the right to work at home, the right to work fewer hours and the right to work at times that vary from week to week.
‘De-stigmatise’ the return to work
These rights will be brokered by job centre staff, who would be given the power to meet people in cafes and community centres under plans to “de-stigmatise” the return to work.
A recent poll by CV-Library, a jobs website, found that 90 per cent of over-50s who have quit employment are now looking to get back into work.
But Labour believes that people are put off by job centres themselves, and would be more willing to speak to advisors in a more familiar setting like a high street cafe.
In a speech next week, Mr Ashworth will also promise that all over-50s will be given guaranteed access to advice on their finances, skills, health and wellbeing.
The UK is the only country in the G7 to see a substantial rise in economic inactivity since the start of the pandemic, according to new analysis by the Labour party.
Five out of seven G7 countries have seen economic inactivity fall since the start of 2020, while the United States has seen a small rise.
Over that time the UK has seen a one per cent increase in the rate of economic inactivity, the worst change among G7 countries.
‘Older workers are hugely experienced’
Rishi Sunak has identified this as one of his priorities, saying in his speech this week it is “staggering” that “at a time when businesses are crying out for workers, a quarter of our labour force is inactive”.
The Prime Minister is due to launch his own plan to get people back to work and is expected to do so in the coming weeks.
Last summer, the Government launched its “mid-life MOT” initiative aimed at encouraging middle-aged people back to the office by convincing them that they cannot afford to retire yet amid the rising cost of living.
Mr Ashworth accused ministers of “dithering” while increasing numbers are quitting the workplace, “leaving us lumbered with the worst inactivity rate in the G7”.
He said that thousands of over-50s have left employment since the pandemic but many would like an opportunity to return with the right help and support.
“Older workers are hugely experienced and should be championed by ministers,” he said. “We shouldn’t turn our backs on this generation who have talents, skills and abilities and so much more to contribute. We should be ambitious for our country which is why I’ll ensure we have specialists to help older workers stay in and return to work.”