“The consequences for the economy as a whole would be no less severe, since the over-50s now comprise almost a third of the national workforce. Bringing many of their careers to a premature end would lead to a significant loss of output and remove a great deal of talent and valuable experience from the workplace as well,” said Ms Abrahams at Age UK.
“If the idea – however theoretical – behind making all over-50s stay at home is to save the country from another national lockdown then our policymakers may discover that the cure is as bad as the disease – and the burden far less equitably shared. “
Most over-50s in work said they were not working from home, in an April survey, indicating that 6m will struggle if told to stay at home.
In the region of one-quarter have been furloughed at some point in recent months.
“Most over 50s are unable to work from home, so requiring older workers to shield in a blanket way would risk leading to a devastating second wave of job losses for this group,” said Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute.
“If the Government does need to use such drastic measures, it must put in place support, including a flexible extension to the furlough scheme for those who are unable to return to work. Only then will we be able to protect jobs and incomes, and ensure that people are able to comply with the public health guidance.”