SMEs failing to benefit from age diversity in employees

Small and medium-sized enterprises are not doing enough to ensure age diversity in the workforce, research suggests.

Almost half of SMEs admit to having no initiatives in place to ensure they have access to enough skilled and diverse people of all ages, according to a new study from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives.

An ageing population is giving rise to an increasingly age-diverse labour market, yet few small businesses are doing enough, or anything at all, to appeal to workers of different ages and unlock the benefits they bring, finds the survey. 

‘Age diversity in SMEs: reaping the benefits’, representing the views of almost 600 decisionmakers in SMEs across the UK, reveals that the majority of small businesses surveyed (60 per cent) have never recruited mature workers over the age of 65.

This may explain why only 5 per cent of workers in UK SMEs falls into the 65+ age bracket, despite the abolition of the default retirement age back in 2011.

Focusing specifically on mature employees, a third of SMEs surveyed don’t offer any support for the extension of working life whatsoever, while over a third don’t have any health or wellbeing provisions in place.

Currently less than a third of small businesses provide the option of flexible working to all their employees, only a quarter offer it to support childcare and only a fifth for the caring of elderly dependents – an issue which will be even more significant in the future.

Dianah Worman, CIPD public policy advisor says, ‘Employers are currently missing a trick by not offering flexible working to all employees and by not adapting to the changing needs of a changing workforce.

‘Healthcare, provision for employees with caring responsibilities – these are just some of the many things SMEs need to be thinking about now to prepare for the future. Failure to do so could mean they miss out on the full range of talent available, putting their business at a serious competitive disadvantage

Further reading on older employees

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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