What steps are you taking to manage your ageing workforce?

24 / 02 / 2017

The Department for Work and Pensions (“DWP”) has published a report, with help from over 30 leading employers, called ‘Fuller Working Lives: A Partnership Approach’. The Report explains the benefits of having older employees in the workforce, and uses evidence to encourage businesses to “retain, retrain and recruit” them.

The issue

We are living longer: it is estimated that by the mid-2030s, the over 50s will comprise more than half of the UK adult population. More income is therefore needed to sustain living standards over an extended period of time.  This, coupled with the abolition of the default retirement age, means people want to work for longer.

In spite of this, more older people are leaving the workforce (often involuntary) than in previous decades, and the over 50s are the least likely to be recruited, perhaps due to incorrect assumptions about their performance and their perceived lack of commitment to the business for any length of time.  Older workers are also more likely to suffer from long-term health conditions, which can reduce employers’ willingness to hire them.

The DWP’s Report uses evidence to try to change mind-sets like these to boost older workers’ share of the labour market. Having the support of “big brand employers” may also encourage others to support this initiative.

Recommendations

The DWP recommends that employers consider the following:

  • Monitor recruitment: Adopt “age blind” recruitment policies, and focus on the value in greater experience instead of qualifications. Consider using recruiters specialising in older workers.
  • Provide the same training opportunities to everyone regardless of age: Do not make assumptions about training needs based on age.  Audit training programmes to check training spend is evenly distributed across age groups.
  • Flexible working: 3 in 5 adult carers are aged 50 and over.  Encourage flexible working to help older workers manage caring obligations alongside work.
  • Manage health conditions: Focus on preventative wellbeing, such as regular health checks and flu vaccinations, and offer medical support and flexible working arrangements where there are health issues.
  • Training: Ensure managers are aware of the issues affecting older workers’ employment so they provide appropriate support.
  • Consider phased retirement: Older employees continue working on reduced hours, and make a gradual transition to stopping work completely.  This can be better for the employee (sudden exits can be hard to deal with), and employers continue to benefit from their experience for longer.

Comment

Whether the Report will have the desired effect depends on employers’ willingness to follow the optional recommendations.

You may wish to consider:

  • reviewing your recruitment strategies, the training you offer, creating or updating your flexible working policy and considering phased retirement options
  • enhancing your medical offerings
  • providing carer support such as employee counselling and flexible working
  • retraining your managers to abandon misconceived perceptions of older workers
  • applying the same performance management procedure to all age groups; equality is key