Since the beginning of the pandemic, 280,000 over-50 workers have withdrawn from the labour market in the UK. Despite these figures, the UK government has confirmed that its over-50s “returnerships” programme will now not proceed. The programme was announced in the Spring Budget for 2023 (the Spring Budget).
According to the Spring Budget, the returnerships programme was intended to promote fast-tracked apprenticeships, sector-based work academy programme placements and skills bootcamps, targeted at over-50s. The programme was announced in an attempt to persuade over-50s to return to the workplace and improve the retraining that they receive in doing so. It was to be designed with flexibility at its focus and the length of training was to be reduced to ensure accessibility for older workers looking to return to work. To support the initiative, £63.2 million was to be invested into a further 8,000 skills bootcamps in England and 40,000 new sector-based work academy programme placements in England and Scotland, spanning 2023-2025.
Despite these objectives, Nick Gibb MP (Education Minister) has stated that the programme will no longer be implemented as intended. Instead, the government will focus on directing over-50s to existing initiatives, rather than on creating an entirely new returnerships scheme. An example of an existing programme is the Department for Work and Pensions Midlife MOT’s website which has been designed to assist older workers in reviewing their skillset and breaking into the labour market, as well as suggesting numerous services to help over-50s identify employment opportunities.
The fact that this scheme has been halted does not prevent employers from ensuring expansion of their employee demographic and making flexible arrangements to accommodate a person’s transition back to work.
Helping individuals return to work: existing guidance
Separately, the government has recently released guidance (the Guidance) for employers and a toolkit designed to help individuals return to work. We recently discussed this in our blog ““Not just a corporate responsibility” – government issues new guidance for employers on helping employees return to work”which highlighted the key objectives and takeaways, including how businesses may benefit from implementing programmes such as those proposed in the Guidance. Our recent blog also notes how those over 50 who are considering returning to work are looking for flexibility in doing so and explains that the Guidance considers any lack of flexibility as a key barrier in returning to work. As a result, the Guidance advises that businesses should always consider whether someone is really required to work full-time and whether working from home is an option in certain circumstances.
If you would like advice on how to support anyone over 50 who is looking to return to work, our experienced PRM team would be happy to assist.