One in eight older workers delaying retirement because of coronavirus, poll finds

Experts warn the outbreak has ‘decimated’ pension pots, although the rise in flexible working means more people are choosing to work longer

The pandemic is causing older workers to delay their retirement plans, a survey has found, raising concerns that the financial impact of coronavirus could be forcing people to work for longer.

A YouGov poll of 2,114 UK adults found that, among over-55s who planned to retire in the future, one in eight (13 per cent) had made the decision to delay their retirement plans because of the pandemic.

The poll, conducted for Smart, also highlighted financial concerns among older employees planning to retire. More than half (52 per cent) of all UK adults said they were concerned about only being able to afford a limited lifestyle in retirement.

Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less, said the over-50s had been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. “Retirement incomes have been decimated, age discrimination is rife and the job prospects for the over-50s are particularly difficult in the current climate,” he said, adding that many clients who are employed and happy in their jobs are choosing to continue working to top up their pension pots while they still can.

Lewis said currently there were more than 600,000 over-50s claiming universal credit, which was more than double the figure last year. The over-50s were more likely to be made redundant and often found themselves “at the back of a very long queue” for work opportunities, he added. 

“Some are being forced into an early retirement they cannot afford, while others are turning to retraining or setting up on their own to make ends meet,” Lewis said.

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Lewis also called for more support for older workers, mirroring the government aid provided to younger people: “We would like to see the government offer similar tailored initiatives to support the over-50s back into the workplace as well as financial incentives to businesses to encourage them to hire older workers who bring with them a wealth of life experience and wisdom, which is essential to business productivity and growth."

The financial impact of the pandemic has hit some groups of savers particularly hard, said Emily Andrews, senior evidence manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, which could have knock-on effects on retirement plans. The charity’s own research has suggested those with defined contribution pensions who have been hit by stock market falls were among those now planning to retire later.

However, the decision to retire was “very personal”, Andrews added. “There are positive and negative factors driving these decisions. For some, the mass experiment in flexible working brought about by the pandemic has made working for longer a more appealing prospect.

“Our own research with the Institute for Fiscal Studies showed that older workers currently working from home were more likely to say they were now planning to retire later.”