Pandemic means over 50s now ‘burnt toast’ as redundancies sweep across North East

Leading redundancy experts claim the 50+ are being treated as ‘burnt toast’. Nicholas Eatch of SR-News looks at the latest published redundancy numbers in the North East and how older employees are seeing they are first in the queue for job cuts.  

OFFICIAL government statistics show the alarming rate the over 50s are being discarded by businesses. A staggering 120,506 employees over the age of 50, were made redundant in the last recorded period Sept-Nov 2020, according to the Office of National Statistics [O.N.S.].

This led to one leading redundancy expert to say: “If you are in your 50s in a big corporation, get ready to be toast!”

The North East is one of the worst affected areas for redundancies. Job losses at Sunderland Nissan[106 jobs], Newcastle International Airport[460 jobs] and Swizzport[302 jobs] have hit the region hard. Other notable local job losses came when Debenhams recently closed all of their stores across the North East, after 242 years trading.

Burnt Toast

Lucia Knight, 49, from Surrey is the author of  XCHANGE’ and ‘Where to start – a beginner’s guide to career change. She has conducted over 1500 leadership interviews over the last ten years. Knight splits the over 50s into four groups of ‘toast’,  depending on their financial exposure. The more burnt the “toast,” the bigger the problem.

“Employees in their 50s are an endangered species in big corporations,” she adds.

“I feel so strongly that we, as individuals, cannot change the realities of the corporate world today. But we can start to change the realities of our personal career situation today.”

Lucia Knight, author and leading career and redundancy expert.

Ageism – alive and kicking

Knight’s view is supported by Dave Watts, 66, from Stratford-upon-Avon, founder of ‘The Redundancy Podcast’. The podcast, founded in 2018, with subscribers in over 50 countries, is dedicated to job hunters in their 50s and 60s.

“If you are over fifty, and there is a way to sift you out, either covertly or overtly, normally covertly due to age discrimination policies, then they will,” said Watts.

“Subscribers of my podcast have gone up by 300% since the pandemic broke, with an equal split between men and women, with over 11,000 subscribers now.

“Ageism is real and out there, despite the company PR posters you will find adorning office walls,” he added.

Dave Watts, founder of ‘The Redundancy Podcast’

The redundancy numbers

The disturbing number of over 50s, over 120,000, that have been made redundant is the highest of any age group in the recent statistics released by the government. 

There are factors that need to be taken into consideration, as the impact of the furlough scheme has likely lowered redundancy rates. Nearly 10 million employees have been on the furlough scheme at some point, and it is unknown what the impact of furlough ending will have on the economy at this stage.

The youngest age group, 16-24, has seen 43,333 redundancies over the same time period which makes the youngest and oldest employees in the UK the worst hit during the pandemic.

Recent data has shown that redundancies during the pandemic have increased at a faster rate than they did during the 2008 financial crisis.

Winning through redundancy? What can the over 50s do?

Steve Preston, Internationally acclaimed author of ‘Winning through redundancy’

Steve Preston, 65, from West London, is a career transition and outplacement specialist and internationally acclaimed author of ‘Winning through redundancy’ – a book aimed at helping the displaced back into meaningful work.

“The days of sitting back and relying on your reputation and expecting companies to come forward looking for you, are gone.

“It’s all about marketing your whole-self, not just your skills and experience, that’s just part of it – how relevant are you?

“Some people handle redundancy seamlessly; whereas the vast majority of us find it a really stressful and anxious time. The first priority is a financial health-check, to help understand your personal situation. Nothing really any good comes from worry,” explained the author.

With furlough about to end for many soon, many leading economists are predicting a rapid rise in redundancies in the north east through 2021.

If you have recently been made redundant or face the fear of redundancy here are some useful links and links to the featured authors within this article.

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