The effects of Ageing Workers
How can Managers get the best from older workers yet be a good employer too? Are you concerned that workers might retire and how you’ll replace the lost skill and knowledge? This article will help you tackle the potentially daunting issue of an ageing workers with creative ideas to help your business keep older workers at their best.
So, what’s the issue?
It’s a fact, the UK’s population is ageing, and ageing fast. This doesn’t mean rushing for the wrinkle cream – we’re ageing as a crowd – there are more ‘older people’ living in the UK now than ever before. It’s globally too. With better healthcare and living conditions, people are living and working longer.
Many ageing workers need the financial stability to meet living costs and find that pensions are not stretching far enough. But the reasons aren’t just financial. Work is good for wellbeing and ageing workers continue working for social contact, sense of self-worth and using their skills acquired through experience and wisdom.
Whatever their reasons – research tells us that by 2030, nearly half the UK’s population and a third of the workforce will be over 50. And some will be a long way over 50. According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of workers of state pension age and above has nearly doubled in 20 years; from 753,000 in 1993 to 1.4 million in 2011 and it’s expected to keep rising.
So there are more older people and older workers. But that’s not all. There are also less youngsters entering the job market, as the birth rate is falling.
The projection is that UK Employers will have 13.5 million job vacancies in the next 10 years, but there’ll only be 7 million school or college leavers available to fill the posts.
Businesses need to discuss the needs of their older worker population, not just for the workers but for the long-term good of the company as it’ll be this population that makes up a large part of the payroll going forward.
According to the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, we must address the ageing population as a matter of urgency. Understanding how to manage the ageing labour market is key to planning your business’ future success. resistance to change, will undermine not only business growth but business survival.”
Where Ageing Workers Work
Older people are seen in the majority of work sectors in the UK. But according to the Health and Safety Executive, they’re leaving faster from manufacturing and construction. Is this due to the physical aspects of the jobs or can employers do more to show flexibility in working patterns or hours worked?
In the UK there is no legal retirement age – other than some very exceptional cases and job types where forced retirement can be justified. The default retirement age of 65 retired itself a few years ago. So now, in theory, people can work for as long as they want.
Older Workers Needs
Workers are NOT all the same. This is a group sharing the vital characteristic of age only. Continue to treat individually without making any assumptions about health or their needs.
The Equality Act 2010 stops discrimination, at work or in society and it is unlawful to treat people differently due to age alone, in the same way you cannot discriminate on the basis of gender, race, religious belief or other characteristic.
Click here for advice on the provisions of the Equality Act.
You don’t have to have specific benefits for older people – often helping older workers will benefit your entire workforce. Having benefits that appeal to workers increases motivation and motivated workers are more productive workers, however old they are.
Flexible Working for Ageing Workers
Research shows that those in the 50 – 64 age group prefer to cut their working hours. Also, older workers say, they’re more likely to stay in work if their work life balance suits them, through part-time or flexible working; showing a strong argument for allowing this type of work pattern.
Also consider options of:
- Part time working
- Changes to working hours and shift patterns
- Flexible start and finish times
- Compressed hours (longer days but less of them – so a shorter working week)
- Job sharing
- Shift swaps among workers
- Working from home/ remote working
Going from working full-time to retirement is a scary prospect for some and may impact on a business too. Consider staggering retirement for workers so that the effect is more gradual and easier to manage.
Seven top tips for managing your ageing workers
1. Communicate and Give Feedback
Keep communication open. Don’t presume to know what older workers want, motivates or what their needs are. If you want to really understand, ask. Similarly, don’t expect workers to guess what you want from them. As for daily tasks – give clear instructions and then feedback on performance – let workers know if they’ve achieved their work targets;
2. Don’t make assumptions
About retirement dates for workers, talk it through and discuss options that suit both them and you.
3. Motivate your workers.
This differs from worker to worker, and a good manager will know how to motivate, whether that’s a simple thank you and well done or giving workers opportunities for progression.
4. Offer Training
All workers should use training and advancement regardless of age. Don’t presume older workers won’t want to progress. Make sure that necessary training reaches all the workforce, especially health and safety training.
5. Offer Age Attractive Benefits
Could your company consider introducing benefits which might motivate and keep workers? What about healthcare? pension schemes?
6. Take an Interest in Workers’ Health.
Promote healthy living at work. Visit British Heart Foundation for tips on how to have a healthy workplace.
7. Use Older Workers as Mentors
Don’t underestimate the wealth of knowledge and experience gained in your business by passing this on older workers’ will feel valued and motivated plus improve their own wellbeing.
Meet your legal duties
Risk assessment processes protects all workers and your business. If you’re unsure what you need to do, the Health and Safety Executive offers guidance on maintaining a healthy, safe and legally compliant workplace.
Case Studies on Ageing Workers
Marks & Spencer
– won a ‘Best Employer for Workers Over 50’ award from the Association of American Retired Persons (AARP) in 2011, and offer:
- A partial retirement scheme – employees can draw company pension benefits while they’re still working. This programme doubled numbers of workers aged 65 and over.
- A workplace health promotion programme containing discussion boards, health information and the ability to make health pledges.
- Different training methods like workshops, books and e-learning to suit different learning styles.
- A range of flexible working options of job sharing, part-time working and term-time only working, which is a really popular for grandparents.
– another AARP award winner. Co-op pride themselves on removing barriers for older workers and offer:
- Flexible working options, like part-time working, flexible hours, variable hours, home and distance working and compressed hours
- Flexible pension options for working on past pension age
- Training for managers on age diversity, as well as age discrimination training
- Pre-retirement courses for workers retirement choices
flexible working options include:
Changeable start and finish times, shift work, part-time work, staggered hours, job sharing and working from home.
And overseas? America’s National Institute of Health (NIH) offer their workers;
- Benefits packages that include: family medical cover, vision and dental insurance, long-term care cover
- Wellness measures such as flu vaccinations, health screenings, stop-smoking programs, health club discounts, gym membership, weight loss programme, and stress management
- Free on site exercise classes
- Paid time off for care-giving
- Retirement planning workshops
Some of the examples might only seem possible for big firms to offer, but there’s no reason a smaller company can’t come up with their own solutions.
The labour market is changing – change too and you’ll be ready for the ageing workforce.
- Managing an Ageing Workforce: How Employers are Adapting to an Older Labour Market – CIPD
- Managing a Healthy Ageing Workforce: A National Business Imperative – CIPD
- Older Workers in the Labour Market – Office for National Statistics
- An Ageing Workforce website from the HSE