The following blog post was submitted by Denise Craig BA (Hons), CIM PPg Dip (Mktg) Director at Seniors Work Force .
We feel the advice below is applicable for many of Hearing Direct's customers.
Finding a new job can be a daunting prospect - at any age. Once over the age of 60, however, participants can often find that the rules of engagement have completely changed. Many of the difficulties are entirely due to the current economic situation, but others, such as new technology or online recruitment procedures, have exacerbated one of the biggest issues for older workers - that of diminishing confidence.
In theory, the new legislation introduced on 1st October 2011, should mean that older workers can choose how long they want to continue working, rather than being forced to leave a job they love, are successful in or simply need, at an arbitrary default retirement age. This is fine if currently in a permanent job, but in these straitened economic times, for older workers that have been made redundant or have had contracts terminated, finding another job can be a hugely stressful and challenging experience. It should not be underestimated how demoralising it is for an older person to complete a time-based competency test, as their reactions are slower than younger people; or to be continually ignored by the same agencies, working as gatekeepers for the majority of online jobs. This is before taking into consideration other worries such as age-related hearing loss and physical limitations that are a natural consequence of ageing.
All of these affect confidence far more than their actual ability to do the job, with the consequence that too many perfectly capable people consider themselves 'past it' and opt out of the job market prematurely. The health benefits of working are well documented - it is not all about earning money, although that is obviously an important element. There are the benefits of having a routine, retaining mental agility, keeping on the move and interacting with other people. This last one can often be one of the most important, but is seen as particularly difficult for those who have hearing problems. Employers have become more accepting of much of the Disability Discrimination Act and the majority have modified their businesses and workplaces to cater for the most obvious disabilities. This helps not only their employees but also their customers.
However, would-be employees in the older age brackets can struggle to admit they need assistance at work, as they feel it may make them appear to be a less attractive candidate. For all the fine words on the application form about equal opportunities, there is still much scepticism that this happens in practice. In less than a decade the UK will reach the point where more than half of the population are over 50, so isn't it time to bring about a useful sea-change in attitudes - on both sides?
Businesses need to see the economic sense in retaining an age-range in their workforce to reflect that of their customer base; older workers need to be realistic in assessing what their working capabilities are, neither over- or under-estimating them. Employers should stop assuming older workers will be more expensive and less adaptable and older workers need to be cannier about how they promote their usefulness to a prospective employer.
One way to do this is to consider self-employment. This option can give the older worker far greater control of their work/life balance, enabling them to play to their strengths while taking responsibility for overcoming any perceived obstacles, such as purchasing specialised equipment. They will then be approaching potential employers as a complete package, helping them to address their organisational requirements without the commitment on either side of a permanent employment contract. The self-employed worker submits an invoice for the work undertaken and the employer pays according to the terms agreed as they would for any supplier. For employers using self-employed contractors rather than taking on a permanent member of staff, can mean lower recruitment, HR and training costs and enable the organisation to respond more flexibly to market and customer demands without having to navigate complex employment legislation. For the self-employed contractor, they can decide on how they will undertake the work agreed, making it possible to fit the work in around their life-style and physical capacities. Working from their own home office means they can use their own familiar equipment, such as telephonic systems that assist those with hearing problems, or specially adapted key-boards for those with arthritis. They will be able to start on the contract immediately and with confidence, whilst avoiding the embarrassment of having to request special equipment and wait for the company to purchase it. Or worse, be given something the company has already that someone in HR thinks 'will do', as often happens when it is the responsibility of the employer to provide suitable equipment.
The Seniors Work Force (at www.seniorsworkforce.co.uk ) offers a simple, cost effective entry into self-employment through their online registration service, where Seniors can promote their availability and Businesses can set out their requirements, allowing each party to contacts the other direct. Self-employment works for many people of all ages, but for the over 60s it can be a very practical solution to their employment problems. Being able to state their terms, without feeling it will put them at a disadvantage, in fact helps everyone to engage in a much more constructive and honest dialogue. Taking control is always a brilliant confidence booster, almost as good as the feeling of doing something really well and getting your just rewards. And that's always a great feeling, no matter how old you are.
Denise Craig BA (Hons), CIM PPg Dip (Mktg) Director, Seniors Work Force