New report published: Understanding the experiences of over 50s following redundancy

An IFF report on the experiences of older workers (aged 50+) following redundancy has been published by the Scottish Government. Its findings featured in a recent Scottish Parliament debate.

Redundancy support in Scotland

Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) is the Scottish Government’s programme for responding to redundancy situations in Scotland. PACE aims to minimise the time people affected by redundancy are out of work by providing skills development and employability support.

IFF has worked with the Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) since 2010 to track users’ satisfaction with the variety of services available through PACE, as well as track the training and work outcomes achieved. The latest instalment of the PACE Client Experience Survey was published in October 2016. This again revealed high levels of satisfaction with PACE services (76%) and high rates of people re-entering employment (71%). The vast majority of those who found work did so within 6 months of being made redundant.

Post-redundancy experiences of the over 50s

An interesting story emerges, however, among PACE users aged 50+. Whilst this age group had high levels of satisfaction with PACE, the proportion re-entering the labour market was lower than average. Also, when work was secured by those over 50, the characteristics of these jobs were more likely to compare unfavorably to the job they were made redundant from (in terms of the skills required, level of responsibility and pay), than was the case for younger age groups.

Although 50+ people generally fare worse than their younger counterparts in the labour market, the Scottish Government felt it important to conduct further research in this area and, as part of its continuous improvement programme to enhance the operation of PACE, IFF was commissioned by the Scottish Government and SDS to undertake targeted qualitative research among PACE users aged over 50. The aim of the research was to explore in detail their experiences following redundancy and to identify potential improvements to PACE services to better assist older users.

Key insights from the research include:

  • Older PACE customers being in inferior roles post-redundancy than they were pre-redundancy (compared to younger groups) is not the result of an intention to ‘wind down’ to retirement. The PACE customers interviewed by IFF were generally looking to re-enter the labour market in a job similar to the one they were made redundant from but were unable to do so.
  • The barriers these PACE customers experienced in finding work included a lack of experience in searching for jobs (including CV writing, interview skills and familiarity with online applications), as well as a narrow network of professional contacts due to often working in the same job/company/industry for many years.
  • Most commonly, however, the PACE customers interviewed felt they struggled to secure work due to a perception that employers prefer to recruit younger workers.
  • In terms of ensuring that PACE continues to provide the best service possible to older customers, reinforcing job search advice which tackles unconscious age bias (such as emphasis on skills- and experience-based CVs), and ensuring that advice is tailored as much as possible, would help to serve the distinctive needs of older workers. A continued emphasis on jobs fairs and informal networking sessions (alongside upskilling with modern job searching techniques and platforms, such as LinkedIn) may also help older workers broaden their professional networks.

The full report was published in June 2017 and is available here

Helping PACE to achieve excellence:

The findings of the research were featured in a May 18th Scottish Parliament debate on PACE, led by the Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse MSP. The PACE initiative received cross-party recognition for the positive contribution made to people affected by redundancy in Scotland, and renewed impetus to continually seek to improve the service delivered to those made redundant.

To this end, on 14 June a continuing professional development conference for front-line PACE delivery providers titled ‘achieving excellence’ was held in Edinburgh. IFF’s Rowan Foster and Mark Tweddle delivered one of the workshops at the event, providing an opportunity to present and discuss the findings of the 50+ research.

With an ageing population and a rising State Pension Age, it is clear that older workers will increasingly become an important component of the workforce in Scotland and the rest of the UK. Support for this demographic in and out of work will be ever more important. IFF looks forward to supporting governments with the evidence they need to develop policies to rise to meet these challenges.

“[The research by IFF] has highlighted some very useful insights from those who have gone through the redundancy process about the additional barriers that over-50s may face in the labour market − age discrimination and other factors − and the need to better tailor support for those who need more intensive support, in interview and CV preparation.”

Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse MSP.