Being made redundant at any age is upsetting, but it is older workers who can find it particularly challenging to find a new job, says financial writer Kara Gammell
According to Saga’s Employment Report, long-term unemployment amongst over 50s is higher than for the working population as a whole in every region of the UK.
Part of this could be due to age discrimination in the recruitment process. Business in the Community, a group that promotes responsible business practices, points to a US study that found younger applicants with the same qualifications and skills are more likely to advance to the next stage of job interviews.
The research found that workers aged 49-51 received 19% fewer responses compared to those aged 29-31. The results also revealed a stronger bias against even older workers - those aged 64-66 had 35% fewer invitations to interview than the 29-31 age band.
So what can you do if you are out of work and ‘on the wrong side of 50’? If you lose your job, is there a way to make yourself more employable?
Your redundancy rights
No matter what your age, if you are made redundant, knowing your rights is crucial. By law, employers must follow proper procedures – if not, you may have grounds for unfair dismissal and could be awarded up to 12 months’ salary, up to a maximum of £74,200, although this cap doesn't affect discrimination claims.
To find out what steps should be taken by your employer, check out Citizens Advice’s guide to redundancy rights.
When it comes to a payout, as a rough guide, you are entitled to work out your notice period – if not, you should be offered pay in lieu. According to ACAS – the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service – employees may be entitled to redundancy payments if they have been continuously employed for at least two years.
Employees under the age of 22 are entitled to half a week’s pay for each full year of service; those aged 22 to 41 are entitled to at least one week's wages for every full year of employment and those over 41 get a bit more at 1.5 weeks' pay. The amounts of pay relates to the amount of time served while you were in each of these age groups.
Employees can only count a maximum of 20 years of service and as of 6 April 2016 the 'weekly pay' is subject to an upper limit of £475.
This is the statutory minimum, which is set down in law, but many employers also offer what’s called contractual redundancy
The good news is that as redundancy pay is compensation for your job loss, it qualifies for special tax treatment, so up to £30,000 is tax free. However, this doesn’t include other elements of your package - holiday pay and pay in lieu of notice, for example, will be taxed in the same way as any other pay.
Increase your odds of finding a new job
Once the redundancy dust has settled, many older workers are keen to get a new job. But how do you convince an employer that you are the best candidate?
“When it comes to job hunters who are over fifty, older workers have to realise that they have dependability, resilience, fortitude and experience on their side,” says Matt Davies, head of customer success at Careercake.com, a career advice and coaching company.
“These attributes add value for any employer, but the trick is getting that across in an application.”
However, for many over-50 job applicants who have previously been in a post for years, the chances are that you might feel a little rusty when it comes to the application process.
“You need to write your application and CV specifically to fit the role and company that you are applying to,” advises Davies. “Also, when rewriting your CV, remember that even though you have lots of experience, it should be no more than three pages long.
“Therefore, only go back around ten years for your work and role experience, this is the information which will be most relevant to a prospective employer.”
Don’t forget your online profile
Keep in mind that employers increasingly look at your online presence in the selection process, so if you haven’t already, you should learn to embrace technology.
Create a profile on business networking site Linkedin and ensure it looks polished and current. Little touches can make all the difference. A good ‘head shot’ photo looks more professional than a selfie taken on a night out. You might laugh, but it happens.
Similarly, don’t forget your Facebook profile and think about how that reflects you as a professional, as well as a person. All of this will paint a picture of who you are and how you operate. If you don’t want prospective employers snooping into your private life, look at your privacy settings and how your profile appears online. Facebook has a guide to how to do this.
If the prospect of job hunting is overwhelming, there are many places that people can seek help and support in getting back to work. Age UK offers information and advice to help you with your job search. While Jobcentre Plus may be able to provide training, for example with IT literacy and English language skills.
I’ve been targeted due to age discrimination – what do I do?
Whether you feel that you have been targeted for redundancy or lost out on a job application due to your age, you may have grounds for a claim of age discrimination.
For instance, when it comes to applying for a new position, employers should not ask for date of birth on your application. While it is not unlawful to ask for this information, it could be used as evidence of an intention to discriminate.
"It is against UK law for employers to discriminate against employees and job applicants on the grounds of age,” says Minal Backhouse, director of Backhouse Solicitors.
“If you have been made redundant and suspect this is because of your age you may have a (potentially uncapped) claim for unlawful age discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. If you are seeking new employment, the Equality Act also makes it unlawful for a prospective employer to treat you less favourably, for example denying you an interview or job offer because of your age, although this can be difficult to prove.”
If you believe that you have been unfairly treated because of your age at work or at a job interview you should normally raise your concerns in writing, following your employer’s grievance procedure if applicable and should seek expert legal advice rather than suffering in silence.
According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, If you think you have been discriminated against you should act quickly, as there are time limits for lodging a claim with an employment tribunal or court – often within three months less one day of the act complained of.
If you think you might have been treated unfairly and want further advice, you can contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service.
If you have been made redundant and think you have grounds to make a claim against your former employer, or more details on your rights, you should seek legal advice.
Retiresavvy is brought to you by Skipton Building Society. The information in this article is for general guidance and is not legal advice.