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Could returning retirees solve FM's staffing problem?

Author : Amanda Vlietstra

15 September 2022

A record number of over-65s have returned to work since the end of the pandemic...

Older workers add value to the workforce

Staffing has been an ongoing issue for the FM sector since the pandemic. A large swathe of workers in their 50s and 60s chose to take early retirement, which has played a significant role in reducing the available pool of talent, on top of a reduction of temporary workers from the EU post-Brexit. Earlier this year, the RICS Facilities Management Survey found that 79% of respondents said they were having difficulty sourcing workers in buildings, operations and maintenance. A further 70% said they were struggling to find support service workers. This is happening at a time when businesses need to recruit new staff to fulfil post-pandemic work contracts, with 77% of the FM industry seeing workloads increasing – causing major headaches for business owners and managers.

Some help could be at hand, however, in the form of returning retirees. With the cost-of-living crisis pushing many people to reassess their financial situation, figures from the Office of National Statistics show that there’s been a jump in the number of Britons aged over 65 who have returned to the workforce. Indeed, that figure reached a record high of over 1.5 million in the second quarter of 2022. 

This marks a return to pre-pandemic days, when increases to the state pension age saw people working until later in life. The ONS figures suggest that many of the retirees returning to work are taking contracting work or part-time jobs to top up declining retirement income. The impact of inflation on the state pension is no doubt a major contributing factor in their decision to return to employment; the ONS figures also show that there has not yet been a similar return of early retirees aged 50-64, suggesting that they are not as reliant on the state pension as their older peers. However, if the cost-of-living crisis continues to drive the ‘unretirement’ trend, this may yet change. 

There are positives to this for the FM sector. Older people could be a significant boon to the FM sector, bringing a wealth of wisdom and experience – and wise employers are seeing staff training as a pathway to loyalty and retention. Nonetheless, there’s no getting around the fact that there’s a lack of younger people entering the skilled trades. Returning retirees only address part of this problem. If recruitment is not to be an ongoing problem for FM, this is something that the government and relevant industry bodies need to address – and soon.

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