Balancing the needs of an ageing workforce

Employers
have undoubtedly overslept on the issue of pensions and those associated with
the ageing workforce. The Government has a lot to answer for in not waking us
up to the crisis earlier, and now, quite rightly, it is in a panic.

The
latest measures to restore confidence do go some way to encouraging greater
flexibility, but employers are under immense pressure to tackle pensions
investment and improve communications immediately. The short-term pain of
pensions reform will be worth the long-term gain and should separate the good
employers from the bad.

HR
managers do not have to be pensions experts, but they do have a responsibility
to act swiftly. There are two key jobs for HR to perform here: to educate the
workforce about the choices they face, and to make business chiefs fully aware
of the people repercussions of any decisions they take.

The
critical information about pensions has been hidden in a quagmire of jargon for
far too long. Individuals have to be helped to cut through the complexities,
and be encouraged to make informed choices about saving for retirement.

A
good deal depends on whether the Government removes the statutory retirement
age in 2006.

The
consequences are far-reaching – an older workforce will require new approaches
to performance management, reward strategies, recruitment and occupational
health to name but a few.  

It’s
not all doom and gloom – older staff certainly bring enormous benefits to the
workplace – but adjustments will have to made to pander to these strengths and
ensure appropriate employee engagement. The employers that get the balance
right will be the market leaders of the future.

Painful
emotions

The
employment tribunal process gets trickier by the day, with the latest news that
damages can now be awarded for injury to feelings in unfair dismissal cases.

While
it won’t apply in every case, there will be nuisance claims from staff who
consider their feelings have been hurt, or their self-respect has been
affected.

This
is grim news for the profession, as it overturns 30 years of settled employment
law, where awards could only reflect monetary loss. With such nebulous
arguments coming forward, it might be more difficult to settle such claims.

By
Jane King, editor

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