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.
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.
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.”
“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.”