Recruit, retain and retrain – the need for business to support older employees

There are more people over 50 in employment in the UK than ever before, and the employment rate of older people is on the increase.

There are more people over 50 in employment in the UK than ever before, and the employment rate of older people is on the increase.[1] In August 2016, more than 1.2 million people were working beyond age 65.[2] There are many reasons for this, but it is ultimately a result of the UK’s ageing population.

Many people are deciding to work longer into later life through either necessity or choice. Whatever their reasoning, it is important for both business sustainability and staff wellbeing that employers are supporting their older workers to remain in the workplace for longer. Financial security and health are key reasons for older people remaining in work, but social isolation remains another key concern for older people, and being part of a workplace and a team can help reduce social exclusion.

In 2011, the retirement age was abolished, allowing people to continue to work into later life – if that is what they desired. This, accompanied with the extension of the state pension age, has meant that people are having to work longer for financial security or wellbeing reasons, while they wait to receive a state pension.

While we would all love to have perfect health into the later years of our lives, sometimes that is not the case. Ill-health is one of the main reasons for employees leaving the workforce before they want to.[3] However, good management of health-related situations can help employees remain in the workplace for longer, providing employers create opportunities for conversations around the potential need for reasonable adjustments to take place and, if necessary, action to be taken.

Flexibility is also very important to older workers who may have caring responsibilities or who may want to spend more time with family, and may desire a more gradual transition between a full working career and retirement, by dropping to part-time hours or phased retirement.

Business in the Community’s Age at Work project, in partnership with Age NI and funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, works with businesses to support their older workers to remain in work. The project encourages business to ensure that its working practices are age friendly in three key areas: Financial Wellbeing; Health & Wellbeing; and Workplace Practices that include flexible working, recruitment and upskilling.

And businesses are reaping the benefits of taking action to become an age-friendly employer. From retaining and recruiting skilled and experienced workers, a healthier workforce and less absenteeism, to increased brand value and a greater understanding of older customer-base needs, a multi-generational workforce is better for business.

There are a number of services offered to suit all business needs and levels of engagement through Age at Work including: an easy-to-use self-audit tool that has been developed to help businesses identify gaps in relation to being an age-friendly employer; helpful Toolkits; Mid-Career Review Workshops delivered by Age NI, for individuals seeking work or a change in roles or sector; and an Age-Learning Network, which offers staff in HR the opportunity to share best practice with each other.

As we call on businesses to build back responsibly in a post-COVID world, and to settle into the new way of working, it is important that businesses come together to address how this will impact on different demographics, minority groups and those facing barriers to employment, including older workers, to explore what support can be applied and what best practice can be shared.

The Age Learning Network creates an opportunity for businesses interested in Diversity & Inclusion and Health & Wellbeing to come together to share best practice, to network and to hear from topic expert speakers over several sessions. The sessions focus on Finance, Health and Workplace Practices with the angle of supporting older employees and will help your business to develop its own bespoke age-inclusive action plan.

Ultimately, a diverse and multi-generational workforce has many business benefits and it is important that everyone in the workplace is supported in a fair and inclusive manner.

[1] Department for Work and Pensions. Fuller Working Lives – Background Evidence. Department for Work and Pensions. London. 2014.

[2] Office for National Statistics. UK Labour Market: August 2016. Office for National Statistics. Newport. 2016

[3] Age at Work. Age-Inclusive Toolkit. January 2020