Interactive Investor

Why older workers are deserting the workplace

1st March 2022 13:28

Rebecca O'Connor from interactive investor

The coronavirus pandemic, ill health and stress behind the over-50s leaving work, and they are not planning on returning, ONS study finds.

The Office for National Statistics has published early insights from a one-off study of work and lifestyle among those aged 50 to 70 since the start of the pandemic, amid concern over the number of older workers leaving the workplace.

The study found that people in this age group were more likely to leave professional (22%), administrative and secretarial and other professional and technical roles.

Employees were more likely to leave jobs in human health and social work activities (13%), wholesale and retail trade (12%), and public administration and defence (11%) industries.

15% left paid work because of the coronavirus pandemic, 13% left because of illness or disability, and 10% left because of stress or mental health reasons, 11% left because they did not want to work anymore, with 10% saying they would leave for a change in lifestyle.

Retirement (47%) was the most common reason for leaving paid work, with those aged 60 years and over twice as likely (56%) to give this reason than those aged 50 to 59 years (28%).

Around 6 in 10 (59%) said they would not consider returning to work in the future, but added reasons they might consider it were being able to work from home (10%), flexible working hours (9%) and a job that fits around caring responsibilities (4%).

Around 4 in 10 (39%) said they would consider returning to paid work in the future. More than half of these (54%) said they would return for social company or a job they enjoyed, 52% would return for the money, and 45% would return for a job that suited their skills and experience.

The most important box for a new job to tick is flexibility, with 36% citing this as the most important aspect of choosing a new job, followed by working from home (18%) and something that fits around caring responsibilities (16%).

Becky O’Connor, Head of Pensions and Savings, interactive investor, said: “The pandemic, illness and stress were top of the reasons to leave jobs for older workers.

“While the reasons for leaving work may be varied, the research suggests that modern working life doesn’t appear to suit the needs of many older workers, who may have caring responsibilities or physical difficulties to contend with.

“It’s interesting that some older workers appear not to need income from work – more than half don’t plan on returning; whereas others are more motivated by financial reasons for considering returning to work in the future.

“This indicates a two-tier reality for older workers and retired people – the ability to choose between retirement and work differs between the haves and the have-nots. Things like the ability to work flexibly, the size of someone’s pension pot or access to other forms of retirement income and, of course, health and other family circumstances all come into play when deciding whether to retire early – or whether retirement may be forced upon you.”

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