As the furlough scheme draws to a close, many are concerned that older workers face unemployment as a result of being stuck on the job retention scheme.

Over 11 million jobs were furloughed as of July, from 1.3 million different employers, and at the beginning of the month, one in three on the scheme were aged 50 or older.

Figures from ING have shown that for the first time, older workers are more likely to be stuck on furlough than the under 25s, with 7.4 per cent of workers over 55 on the scheme, compared to 6.3 per cent of employees under 25.

Officially known as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, it is set to end on 30 September, with many fearing that the over 55s still relying on it will be at risk of losing their job or forced into early retirement.

James Smith, economist at ING, said that employment is not likely to rise as the scheme ends, as many furloughed roles that could have been saved have already returned to work.

The recent lifting of most remaining restrictions has been beneficial for young people on furlough, 35 per cent of whom were using the scheme last summer.

It is thought that as the hospitality industry has returned, 18 to 24-year-olds have benefitted from the labour shortage permeating the UK.

Rishi Sunak is hoping to prevent a rise in unemployment with his Plan for Jobs, designed to protect, support, and create jobs across the UK, giving people skills they need to get back into work through increased training, or methods such as the Kickstart scheme.

However, these measures are mostly designed for young people, leaving many concerned that there is a lack of support for older workers left on furlough.

There is less opportunity for this age group to reskill or change career path, meaning that the ending of furlough could plunge thousands into sudden unemployment.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, commented:

Unemployment tends to spike up for younger people, then drop down a bit faster… But for older people, unemployment spikes up less, but it is tougher to get them back to work. Often, you end up with people taking early retirement or struggling to find work that suits them.





Megan McElroy is a second year English Literature student at the University of Warwick. As Editorial Intern for HRreview, her interests include employment law and public policy. In relation to her degree, her favourite areas of study include Small Press Publishing and political poetry.