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3 min read

Does age matter in hospitality jobs?

Are hospitality jobs suitable for mature workers and those working past retirement age? Caterer.com finds out.

When we’re at primary school, everyone grown up looks…well…old. And the same can be said for the perspective of some recruiters! But following the passing of age discrimination legislation, it’s now illegal to recruit based on age – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Of course, jobs in hospitality can be fast-paced. It’s a perfect place for someone young and fit; would some of the roles be less suited to someone close to pension age and less nimble on their feet?

On the flip side, with the abundance of shift patterns, often with antisocial hours, perhaps someone older, with less of an eye on their social life, would be grateful for the opportunity to get out from in front of the telly each evening?

In 1971, the average age for someone working in the UK was 34. Today it’s 38.5 and by 2031 it’s predicted to be 43. There are now more over-65s than there are under-16s in the UK.

Amusingly, the reason is due to the post World War II ‘baby boom’ — as husbands and boyfriends returned home to their ladies and made up for lost time. Following this, there was a lull in the 60s and 70s – but then the baby boomers’ children started procreating and creating a new baby boom!

This surge in population, coupled with the fact that people are living for longer means that our average working age is increasing. In fact, more than 700,000 people reached retirement age last year and many were looking forward to picking up their free bus pass – but then carrying on work anyway.

In fact, one of the government’s key target groups to encourage back to work is the over 50s. Back in 1993, just 62% of the over 50s were in employment, a figure which had gone up to over 70 per cent by 2008 according to the Office for National Statistics.

In 2006, the law that made age discrimination illegal also made it illegal to force someone to retire below the age of 65.

The pub company JD Wetherspoon has more than 700 outlets across the UK and the company’s customer base is very broad – something it’s keen to reflect in its workforce. Recruitment manager Sarah Carter says: “Some people’s perception of our industry is that it’s a youth-oriented one, so while we were very good at employing students, we’d always struggled to attract applications from the older age bracket. We still get people ringing up saying: ‘I’m 45 – am I too old for a bar manager job?’ The answer is absolutely no way!”

A diverse workforce ensures that bar staff are able to interact with customers of all ages, according to Sarah. “One of our older workers said he felt he had a great rapport with our customers,” she continues, “because some of them are more comfortable talking to staff their own age.”

To help make things easier, the government is encouraging flexible working – a report in 2005* found that half of those who retired between 50 and 69 would have worked longer if they could have accessed flexible working. *

*Source: EOC Working Paper No. 31 – Older workers and options for flexible work

In fact, one of the key advantages for someone in Sarah’s position of employing older people is that all-important flexibility. “They enable us to cover our core hours. A very busy period for us is over lunchtime and, for many older workers, that’s what they’re looking for – a few hours a week.”

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