Hardworking, loyal & talented but overlooked

is how many older workers feel

workers feel they are getting a raw deal at work. They say their talents are
underused and that they are not shown any genuine care or concern, despite
working harder, taking less
days off, and enjoying their job more.

the study carried out for Personnel Today
by researchers BMRB, published in the National Employee Benchmark Study 2004,
shows that older workers – defined as those aged over 55 – make up 13 per cent
of the UK workforce, and around half of them (55 per cent) have been with their
employer for 10 years or more, compared with a UK average of 32 per cent.

feel as loyal to their employer as any other age group, but feel that their organisations do not treat them well (only 36 per cent
believe they do, compared with 46 per cent on average).

50 per cent think their organisations make full use
of their talents and skills, and only 39 per cent believe their employers show
them any genuine care and concern (compared with 43 per cent on average).

spite of this, 77 per cent enjoy their activities and duties on a day-to-day
basis (compared with 69 per cent on average), and they are the group most
likely to go ‘above and beyond’ for their employers.

survey of more than 2,400 workers shows that older employees also tend to be
the age group least likely to take any days off work for family time, leisure,
or even just when they feel like it.

asked when they would like to retire, they opt for an older retirement age than
the rest of the population. This may be because they are changing their mind as
their time approaches, or it may be because they do not have adequate pension
cover to consider it yet.

Feedback from the profession

Satya Kartara,
director of diversity and inclusion, Royal Mail

is the responsibility of organisations to help [older
staff] realise they are valued. You have to make sure
there are no artificial barriers, such as cut-off ages for development or
progression, and that opportunities are decided on merit and not on age. Then
you have to give a very clear message that all opportunities are open to
everyone. It’s about getting  them to realise
that experience is incredibly valuable to your organisation.

Angie Risley,
group HR director, Whitbread

believes flexibility and choice are
the key to success. To not embrace older workers would be to our detriment, as
in our experience, they are hard-working, have great loyalty and lower absence
rates. With regards to a later retirement age, our research showed that 50 per
cent of people would consider returning to work in later life – attracted by
the flexibility, mental stimulation and the chance to earn extra money. It
makes sense to embrace this enthusiasm.

Sam Mercer, director, The Employers Forum on Age

figures should scare employers. After 2006, these workers will have the right
to challenge the way they are being treated in tribunals. There are a growing
number who feel they are being ignored or exploited and they will have nothing
to lose by bringing an age discrimination claim. Even employers who think they
have the right policies in place should look at what is happening on the
ground. It is going to take a concerted effort to tackle our ageist culture.

Martin Hinchcliffe, HR director at Welcome Break, the hotel
and motorway services chain

think you have to be as flexible as you can to promote equal opportunities in
all areas – including age. HR’s
role is to promote fairness and have a fair performance management system. If
staff are abusing the sick day system then this absence needs to be dealt with
so that it is fair for all. Line managers need to be given the skills so they
are objective when making decisions, and promote on merit, regardless of age.

Jeremy del Strother, personnel director, Nationwide

“You have to value the contribution of each individual, and
the contribution from our older workers, especially in customer-facing roles,
is great. It’s a pity that many employers write off [older workers]. We make
sure they are still around so we don’t lose the experience. The oldest worker
we have is 86. We allow flexible working and let people downsize their jobs,
and the result is that more older
workers stay with us.

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