United Kingdom

HR must do more to retain older workers, government inquiry told

February 2018

More must be done to retain older workers, a government inquiry was told.

During a women and equalities committee oral evidence session on the role of older employees, many organisations offered guidance and raised concerns about the ageing workforce, and employers’ role in preparing for it, People Management Magazine wrote.

Research from the International Longevity Centre showed the differences between the employment rate for 53-year-olds and 67-year-olds was 64%, with health and caring responsibilities being cited as the issues that put employees under pressure.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said that HR and business leaders need to work together to offer training opportunities for older workers. He said it was a “significant challenge to retain employees over 50” and the session was told that recruiting and reskilling older workers “would become increasingly important”.

Some of the concerns raised at the inquiry include a lack of awareness of the Fit for Work service among employers, particularly smaller firms. Wilmott said occupational health services are vital to support workers of all ages. He added: “We need to unlock the potential of flexible working and make it more inclusive.”

The magazine explained that the government’s Fit for Work service was a free, GP-led service, which allowed employers to refer staff. It offered impartial advice to employers, and occupational health assessments for employees who were off ill for four or more weeks – aiming to reduce the bill for long-term sickness by getting individuals back to work as early as possible.

However, it is to be scrapped this year due to “poor take-up and complaints from employers that felt it either replicated their own occupational health support for employees or was too poorly understood to have a significant impact on long-term illness”.

Another concern about older workers, voiced by Ruby Peacock, deputy head of public affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses, was a lack of accessible training for smaller organisations to support them because of a lack of resources and funding.

She urged the government to involve small business owners in managing older staff because they know their staff and “what makes them tick”, and said that flexible working was also important.

Peacock said that views are changing on flexible working and younger business owners are more open to it from the beginning.

Manesh Patel, a senior benefits consultant at Aon Employee Benefits said: “The over 50s not only bring a wealth of experience, knowledge and "can do" attitude but they can also be a great asset for employers who have a younger employee base in guiding and nurturing them as they progress through their career.

“Many employers, in particular, small to medium enterprises would benefit from this generation if only they had support in educating them and an understanding of the benefits available to them from the government.”

He suggested that many employees, irrespective of age, value a work-life balance or flexibility which, in turn can lead to higher productivity, loyalty and job satisfaction. For the over 50s, he said, this is a great asset for any employer.

He warned that companies that do not embrace flexibility are more likely to face challenges in recruiting and retaining staff, as well as motivating them.

“Flexible working does not always have to be about working from home - many businesses are unable to offer this. Flexible working can be about being able to deal with personal needs such as booking a doctor or dentist appointment, by using new technology available,” he said.


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