NIESR Press Release: The impact of older workers on the workplace

Published: 02nd February 2017

For Immediate Release


Increasing numbers of older workers are not associated with a deterioration in workplace performance, according to the first UK study using nationally representative data for private sector workplaces, published today.

The key findings from the research, which was carried out by NIESR and UCL economists for the Department for Work and Pensions, are:

  • On average, the percentage of the workforce aged 50 and over rose from 21 per cent in 2004 to 24 per cent in 2011. In 2011, 19 per cent of workplaces did not employ any older workers, while in 14 per cent of workplaces, at least half the workforce were aged 50 or above.
  • No significant association was found between changes in the proportion of older workers employed and changes in a range of workplace performance measures. There was some evidence that workplace labour productivity falls where the proportion of workers aged 22-49 falls, either due to a rise in the proportion of older or younger workers. But this association does not carry through to financial performance.
  • Older workers were less likely to have received at least one day of training in the year prior to the survey than employees in younger age groups.
  • Older workers employed in workplaces with formal equal opportunities practices did receive higher pay than observationally similar older people in workplaces without such practices.
  • On average, older workers report higher job satisfaction and job-related wellbeing than workers aged 22 to 49 (although this may reflect the fact that less satisfied older workers have left the labour market).

Co-author Lucy Stokes said:  “The workforce is getting older. Improving the experiences of older workers is vital if we want to encourage individuals to remain in employment for longer. While equal opportunities practices are important, greater focus on other employer practices, such as provision of flexible working or job design, may be required. These may have benefits for employees of all ages, not just older workers.”




Notes for Editors:

The report is entitled:  “Older workers and the workplace: Evidence from the Workplace Employment Relations Survey”. It is available here.

It was authored by Lucy Stokes, John Forth and Helen Bewley of NIESR and Alex Bryson of UCL (also a NIESR Fellow). 

Read the NIESR blogpost about the findings here.

The report used data from the Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS), a nationally representative survey of British workplaces and their employees. The aim of each survey in the WERS series has been to provide large-scale, statistically reliable evidence about a broad range of employment relations and practices across the economy in Great Britain. This research makes use of data from the two most recent surveys in the series, which took place in 2004 and 2011.

To arrange an interview with Lucy Stokes, NIESR Research Fellow, please contact:

l.pieri [at]  or 020 7654 1931

Alex Bryson, Professor of Quantitative Social Science, UCL Institute of Education can be reached at: a.bryson [at]  or 07969 179755


NIESR aims to promote, through quantitative and qualitative research, a deeper understanding of the interaction of economic and social forces that affect people's lives, and the ways in which policies can improve them.

Further details of NIESR’s activities can be seen on or by contacting enquiries [at]  Switchboard Telephone Number: +44 (0) 207 222 7665




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