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The Impacts Of An Ageing Workforce

Nearly a third of the UK’s workforce is over 50 years old and this number is significantly increasing as the average life expectancy increases by two to three years every decade.

Coppice HR (www.coppicehr.com) can assist your organisation in coping with this challenging, but also the potentially beneficial change to your workforce.

Employers are reminded that age is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act (2010) and the impact of discrimination claims. Most organisations try not to use young or increasing age in the recruitment and promotion selection process to avoid tribunal claims. Retirement age is becoming more of a ‘taboo’ subject. Nevertheless, more ‘senior’ employees often provide a different range of skills to their younger counterparts. Mature workers can bring a significant level of expertise to a role that can be shared with colleagues and influence decision making. Knowledge sharing is beneficial.

The stereotype of older workers is usually untrue, but it is common knowledge that people’s reactions often get slower with age and muscle strength reduces. Sensory abilities including vision and hearing also change with age, but through personal aids and a workplace assessment of the environment, many of these changes can be accommodated. Indeed, making a concerted effort to accommodate the requirements of individual members of staff can improve productivity.

Although not all workers will experience health issues, the Work Foundation has forecast that one in three workers will be experiencing chronic ill health by 2020. However, according to The Centre For Ageing Better, only 1 in 5 employers are discussing their ageing workforce strategically. What could employers do to protect from an ageing workforce and also use senior workers’ experience to the full?

The Centre for Ageing Better is urging employers to adopt five age-friendly practices to ensure they are ready for the ageing workforce:

  • Flexible flexibility – working arrangements that work for the employee as well as the employer. 
  • Age-positive recruitment which doesn’t discriminate against older candidates.
  • Appropriate support for health at work, including workplace adjustments.
  • Equal opportunities for progression and development at all ages.
  • Age-inclusive workplace culture and line management.

Some companies have introduced ‘Wind Down’ initiatives, which is effectively part-time working and ‘Ease Down’, where employees reduce their working commitments in their approach to retirement or to deal with the domestic care responsibilities for their older parents. Companies offering flu vaccinations in the winter months and health screening are becoming more prevalent, as well as in-house independent financial advice. Others, like the NHS, have introduced an ‘Ageing Workforce – Organisational Pledge’. Adjustments and initiatives such as to these can have a positive influence on the performance of the employee and are seen as reasonable adjustments from a legal viewpoint. This Company is “a good one to work for” cannot be a negative comment!

Contact Coppice HR (paul@coppicehr.com) to action these and other initiatives to ensure that your organisation is looking after those employees that offer so many valuable skills, whilst saving your company money lost in recruitment costs and tribunal claims.

Inspired by:  NHS – The Ageing Workforce, BHSFOH – Ageing Workforce and Ageing Better Organisation – Unprepared For An Ageing Workforce