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Employers and staff must “embrace the changing shape of UK work” to increase employment for all ages, the head of the Employers’ Forum on Age (EFA) has told PM.
Denise Keating, chief executive of the EFA, said that the workplace was in the midst of a transition that meant there was “more work to be had".
Talking about the current state of employment in Britain, she said: “It’s not an easy situation when you’ve got 600,000 18-24 year olds out of work, but work is not finite. There is more work to be had. The government is trying to encourage more people to become entrepreneurs and it’s this change in the shape of work that people can’t quite get their heads around.”
Keating predicted that, as part of the workplace transition, more small businesses would be set up and with them workers would be exposed to increased flexible working, part-time roles and flexible retirement, since this was more prevalent in the SME sector. This would suit an ageing population who have financial commitments to maintain that previous generations may not have had, she added.
Keating also highlighted research from 2009 in which McDonald's found that their restaurants with mixed age teams had higher productivity and customer satisfaction.
“You could argue that this means more jobs for more people because you’ve got better performance, so you’re creating more job opportunities.”
The EFA has shifted its medium-term focus to younger employees and has planned a series of round table debates to “get a clearer picture of what young people are saying” to inform its future campaigns.
Larger changes are planned for October, when the forum will widen its remit to support the concept of inclusion at work. The aim is to improve employers’ understanding of what makes an inclusive workforce. Keating said: “After the Equality Act came into force in October 2010, the number of protected characteristics rose from six to nine (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation are protected). So we’re developing an inclusive support offering that’s going to cover all nine: a one stop shop.”
When asked about another recently launched organisation called Inclusive Employers, which offers a similar service, she said: “We work with all other forums; at the moment Inclusive Employers is a private company.” But she didn’t rule out a link up in the future.
Rachel Krys, the organisation’s director, said that Inclusive Employers had been established as a limited company to fund a future charity called the Inclusive Employers' Foundation, which will be registered with the Charity Commission in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, Keating said that the changes to the remit of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, announced in March, would bring change for all the equality forums - the challenge would be how to support employers.