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Going Back to Work? On Yer Bike!

Going Back to Work? On Yer Bike!
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Marketing Consultant - babelmonkey

Who remembers Norman Tebbit's comments about his father getting on his bike and looking for work until he found it? Well, it seems history is repeating itself, with the current Secretary for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride, encouraging the over 50s to seek employment within the gig economy.

Recently, Mel Stride, Conservative MP for Central Devon and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions commented on people over 50 returning to the workplace and the types of work they might consider. Likened to Norman Tebbit’s ‘on your bike’ remarks several years ago, Mr Stride’s comments have caused quite a stir, and he’s been accused of neglecting the realities facing the over 50s looking to get back into work. 

For those over 50, finding work has typically proved challenging for many as there is a historical trend amongst employers to lean towards employing younger options. On a visit to Deliveroo HQ in London, Mel Stride suggested that it was “good for people to consider options they might not have otherwise thought of”, including those traditionally seen as being for younger workers. He praised the flexibility of the working hours, claiming it was “driving huge opportunities”. His location when making the comments has been widely interpreted as his being in favour of encouraging the over 50s to ‘get on your bike’!

Whilst being able to pick and choose your work hours, the suggestion omits various considerations, some of which the TUC’s senior policy officer for employment rights, Tim Sharp, was quick to point out. He accused Stride of “glorifying” the gig economy, whereas the reality of working within it tends to be quite different: rather than having flexibility, there is often no job security, and the pay rate is not guaranteed.

The issue with wages is real: companies such as Deliveroo will have peak times for demand, traditionally evenings and weekends when the pay rate will be higher and orders more frequent. As such, to earn the most money, the flexibility evaporates, and workers need to opt for working the busiest shifts. Such physical labour may be an unreasonable expectation for some in that age bracket, particularly if they have existing health conditions or have previously worked in more sedentary roles.

There are some positives about joining the gig economy workforce: in addition to the flexibility it undoubtedly offers, it could also be a stepping-stone to other employment: such work shows a willingness to work and an ability to do so. With retirement age now into the late 60s and with people living longer, many need or want to top up their current income or pension and entirely flexible working such as this, or taxi driving, are workable solutions.

Jason Perry, Managing Director at ASL, thinks the solution to getting more over 50-year-olds into work is making roles more appealing. Appearing on BBC Radio Sussex to discuss the furore over Mel Stride MP's comments, he voiced his opinion.

“Many people of that age have commitments: they may look after the grandchildren a day or two per week or volunteer with charitable organisations. Some may be looking after elderly parents, so having flexibility around working hours is desirable and, in some cases, essential for enticing this segment of the population back to work.”

He explains how, recently, ASL Recruitment has done just that, employing an experienced Business Development Manager in her early fifties part-time to allow her the flexibility to honour personal commitments whilst enjoying a return to work.

Jason commented: “She gets to work in a supportive environment doing a job she both enjoys and is good at, and we benefit from her experience. She gets the time she needs for her personal commitments whilst returning to work, and she’s contributing to the economy, so it’s a win all ways round.”

Working in the gig economy isn’t going to be the solution for everyone; however, it’s worth noting that Deliveroo has recorded a 62% increase in riders aged over 50 since 2021. It seems the notion of getting on their bikes is working for some!

ASL Recruitment was established in 1999 and has served Hastings and the surrounding area ever since, placing temporary and permanent roles across various sectors, including Industrial and Manufacturing, Legal, Finance, Marketing, Technology and Office Support, from junior to board level. Our co-founder and Managing Director,   Jason Perry , is an HR specialist and a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.