How the Great Unretirement can close the skills gap

As the cost-of-living crisis continues, many employees who stopped working at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic are now looking to ‘unretire.’

Just as the Covid-19 pandemic sparked the Great Resignation, the current cost-of-living crisis is ushering in the Great Unretirement – employees who retired during lockdown who are now looking to return to work.

The unretirement trend has created a much-needed pool of experienced, highly skilled workers, ready to rejoin the UK workforce, and companies are already tapping into this resource.

It’s a win-win situation for both employer and employee

Susan Galashan
Employment law and HR expert, NatWest Mentor

Keys to attracting unretiring workers:

  • make returning to work attractive
  • be open to part-time employees
  • have age-friendly policies in place
  • offer flexible working and job sharing

Susan Galashan, employment law and HR expert with NatWest Mentor, says: “Returning to the workplace after a substantial break can be daunting for some, but many retired workers are choosing this path now.

“If employers offer the right support at the induction stage, they’ll quickly reap the benefits of the skills and knowledge that unretired workers can bring to an organisation – without the need for lengthy training and development programmes.

“It’s an excellent approach to help bridge skills gaps in the short-term.”

Some benefits of hiring unretiring workers:

  • trained workers add value immediately
  • customers appreciate experienced staff
  • experienced workers pass on their skills
  • older employees can be more loyal

While financial pressures brought about by the cost-of-living crisis are the main reason given for unretiring, others include missing the purpose that work provides and the desire to socialise with colleagues again.

Other retired workers return to fulfill ambitions they couldn’t satisfy during their working lives or in retirement, like making a career change or starting a business.

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Attitudes to hiring older workers are changing, and assumptions that someone who is nearing retirement age won’t stay in their job for long, or is overqualified, are not only outdated but could be discriminatory and illegal.

Managers should explain the benefits of hiring unretiring workers to recruiters and ensure job adverts are attractive to candidates of all ages. Flexibility and inclusiveness are the keys.

“This new pool of unretiring workers can definitely help alleviate the current skills shortage in the workforce, so it’s a win-win situation for both employer and employee,” Susan says.

Longer lifespans and extended retirement ages mean the global workforce is ageing, so it’s a good idea to make sure your company has age-friendly policies in place and is aware of discrimination laws.

If you feel you could benefit from free business tools, resources and guidance, sign up to NatWest MentorDigital and get access to employment law, HR, and health and safety support. You don’t need to bank with NatWest. NatWest Mentor also provides advice for more complex workforce matters, through a subscription service. Mentor’s subscription services incur a cost.

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