Spotlight on: older employees

From our 50s onwards, our thoughts tend to turn towards a wisteria-bedecked cottage, but today, with more than a million British people working beyond the state pension age, and each day bringing a fresh pension scandal, we can put those dreams on hold.

It’s almost 18 months since the introduction of the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations. According to recruitment specialist StepStone, employers feel positive about the older workforce.

Colin Tenwick, chief executive of StepStone, says: “With almost half of executives interviewed in Western Europe and North America viewing an increased use of older workers in a positive light, it appears likely that we will see older workers returning to the workforce or perhaps postponing retirement to fill skills gaps.”

As Tenwick points out: “The retiring population generally has four invaluable key abilities: team leadership, organisational awareness, impact and influence, and initiative. As these skills take longer to develop, and come from experience and maturity, it means that companies stand to lose many of their skilled leaders, unless they can effectively harness their experience to educate younger colleagues.”

A recent Bupa survey also found that older staff were less likely to be off sick than their younger colleagues, with 16 to 24-year-olds being the worst offenders.

So, we need them, and we’ve finally realised that they are an asset. But how should we go about keeping our older staff, or even attracting those who might have realised that retirement isn’t as much fun as anticipated? Consider the following:

  • Avoid pigeonholing your older workers. While they may be fantastic in customer-facing positions, their ‘life’ experience and insight could make them ideal for a variety of roles.
  • Offer a lively, varied working environment for staff – with plenty of scope for social interaction with colleagues. Balance the needs of all of your employees.
  • Offer flexible working conditions – this will be a key incentive for older workers. Consider offering part-time working, job sharing and reduced hours.
  • Make sure that all of your employees have equal access to training and promotion – regardless of age. Remember that under the terms of the age discrimination law, you are legally required to ensure this access.
  • Don’t make assumptions about what older workers know and don’t know. Almost 30% of 65 to 69-year-olds and nearly 20% of 70 to 74-year-olds know their way around the internet.

With the UK’s birth rate declining at 1.79 children per woman, recruiters would do well to keep on the right side of retirees.

Five facts… on the ageing workforce

  1. The number of over-65s is expected to rise by nearly 60% in the next 25 years.
  2. By 2031, nearly 23% of England’s population will be 65 and over.
  3. In 2006, more than 6.3 million people aged between 50 and the state pension age were working.
  4. The government expects age discrimination claims to be eight times greater than those concerning sexual orientation or religion.
  5. 37% of those aged 50-plus remained unemployed for more than 12 months (compared with 27% of 25 to 49-year-olds).

Source: Employers Forum on Age

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