Ageing population makes the health and wellbeing of older workers into a hot topic

Photo by Paul ODonnell via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

Photo by Paul ODonnell via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

A poll by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) has produced results that suggest that too few employers are doing enough to look after the wellbeing of their workforce and to prepare people for a longer career. Among employed people, just 17% said their boss encouraged them to take proper breaks or even annual leave. And only 7% of those who worked said they were offered fast-track access to physiotherapy services.

This is worrying, particularly as figures on the demographic of the UK workforce (taken from the employers’ guide to employing older workers produced by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)) suggests the over 50s form 27% of the current workforce, a figure that will rise to one third of the workforce by 2020. If organisations are to embrace this country’s changing demographic and remain productive, they will increasingly have to learn how to effectively manage an ageing, multi-generational workforce. The DWP report suggests that older people are remaining fit and active for longer and many are choosing to work beyond the state pension age. It is also predicted that migrants and young people will not be able to fill job vacancies over the next ten years, which makes the continued role of older workers even more crucial.

50+ Works, a website developed by The Age and Employment Network (TAEN) in association with the European Social Fund and the Department for Work and Pensions, which aims to share know-how and experience for providers supporting 50+ job seekers, lists the following strengths that older workers bring to the workforce:

  • Reliability, loyalty, motivation.
  • Dedication, punctuality, flexibility.
  • Skills, knowledge, experience.
  • Maturity, confidence.
  • Organisational skills.
  • Communication skills.
  • Empathy, good customer relations.
  • Mentoring, knowledge transfer.

Despite these benefits offered by many older workers, some organisations are still wary about showing preference to older workers over younger ones during the recruitment process. Perhaps this is because they fear that older workers will be less resilient, may struggle to adapt to new tasks and environments, or that they will be ill more often. It is true to say that employers may well be faced with a completely different set of issues around health at work as the average age of the workforce rises, but perhaps this is something that shouldn’t be seen as a hindrance, rather as a vital part of organisational development to ensure continued productivity.

By law, employers should be protecting older workers, including carrying out risk assessments and training, and they will need to consider issues such as workplace design and necessary adjustments, flexible working, and regular health checks. For information on how to support older workers in your organisation, and for guidance on fulfilling your legislative responsibilities, call the free Health for Work Adviceline on 0800 0 77 88 44.

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