How to support older workers How to support older workers

How to support older workers
14 Dec 2017

While the abolition of the UK’s default retirement age (DRA) under the 2010 Discrimination Act was considered by many to be a good thing, it has generated significant challenges for employers. That employees are entitled to continue working until they no longer wish to do so, coupled with advances in medical science, mean that more people are continuing at work for much longer than was previously the case.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the proportion of those aged 65 and over who work has almost doubled over the last 15 years, with the most significant driver believed to be financial, perhaps as a result of inadequate pension provision, dependent children or a desire by individuals to maintain their lifestyle.

But while employers undoubtedly benefit from keeping hold of experienced and loyal long serving employees, the situation can prove to be testing. The much discussed issue of having three or four generations in the workplace brings with it organisational and cultural considerations, not least that younger employees can feel frustrated by a lack of opportunity to progress into more senior roles.

Moreover, a recent report by Stephen Bevan, head of HR research development at the Institute for Employment Studies, estimates that by 2030 around 40% of the working age population will have at least one chronic, work-limiting health condition. The Alzheimer’s Society also indicates in its ‘Dementia UK’ study that more than 40,000 people are living with early onset dementia, which means they were diagnosed before the age of 65 – and there is evidence to suggest that the prevalence of the early onset version of the condition is on the rise.

Understanding the issue

As a result, such issues really need to start moving onto employers’ radars more and more, especially as many employees wish, or indeed need, to continue working for reasons of their own.

This means that it is important for employers to understand the implications of their workforce’s changing demographics and to make appropriate arrangements to support individuals if they wish to remain in the workplace.

For instance, there are a number of illnesses that are more likely to affect more mature workers, which include cancer, stroke, dementia and Parkinson’s. Many older workers also find themselves with significant caring responsibilities, whether that means looking after their partner or supporting their children and grandchildren. They are also more likely to suffer a significant bereavement.

How to provide useful support

Flexible working patterns and providing opportunities to work from home can go a long way towards accommodating older workers and may also be helpful in easing them into a phased retirement. But other support services such as specialist group insurances, employee assistance programmes (EAPs), charities, workshops and training can also prove invaluable.

The kind of support that many older workers find particularly useful includes:

• Help in understanding specific medical conditions and how best to manage symptoms;
• An explanation of treatment options;
• Suggestions for coping strategies;
• Assistance in ensuring they make the best use of whatever services are available, for example from the National Health Service (NHS), their employer, insurance company, specialist charities or social services;
• Being assessed and provided with occupational therapy or counselling to aid recovery rather than being subject to NHS waiting lists;
• Advice on appropriate workplace adjustments or therapeutic equipment.

Such services are generally available either individually or as part of a larger package via some group insurers, associations such as the Federation of Small Businesses and trade unions, which specifically tailor offerings for their members. Providing them not only helps employers to fulfil their duty of care, but also contributes to employee engagement, boosts loyalty and improves retention rates among the whole workforce.

Christine Husbands has been managing director of RedArc Nurses, a service that provides personal nurse advisers for people experiencing illness, disability, trauma or bereavement, since 2010. She spent the initial part of her career in financial roles and has held several board-level positions in financial services organisations.

While the abolition of the UK’s default retirement age (DRA) under the 2010 Discrimination Act was considered by many to be a good thing, it has generated significant challenges for employers. That employees are entitled to continue working until they no longer wish to do so, coupled with advances in medical science, mean that more people are continuing at work for much longer than was previously the case.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the proportion of those aged 65 and over who work has almost doubled over the last 15 years, with the most significant driver believed to be financial, perhaps as a result of inadequate pension provision, dependent children or a desire by individuals to maintain their lifestyle.

But while employers undoubtedly benefit from keeping hold of experienced and loyal long serving employees, the situation can prove to be testing. The much discussed issue of having three or four generations in the workplace brings with it organisational and cultural considerations, not least that younger employees can feel frustrated by a lack of opportunity to progress into more senior roles.

Moreover, a recent report by Stephen Bevan, head of HR research development at the Institute for Employment Studies, estimates that by 2030 around 40% of the working age population will have at least one chronic, work-limiting health condition. The Alzheimer’s Society also indicates in its ‘Dementia UK’ study that more than 40,000 people are living with early onset dementia, which means they were diagnosed before the age of 65 – and there is evidence to suggest that the prevalence of the early onset version of the condition is on the rise.

Understanding the issue

As a result, such issues really need to start moving onto employers’ radars more and more, especially as many employees wish, or indeed need, to continue working for reasons of their own.

This means that it is important for employers to understand the implications of their workforce’s changing demographics and to make appropriate arrangements to support individuals if they wish to remain in the workplace.

For instance, there are a number of illnesses that are more likely to affect more mature workers, which include cancer, stroke, dementia and Parkinson’s. Many older workers also find themselves with significant caring responsibilities, whether that means looking after their partner or supporting their children and grandchildren. They are also more likely to suffer a significant bereavement.

How to provide useful support

Flexible working patterns and providing opportunities to work from home can go a long way towards accommodating older workers and may also be helpful in easing them into a phased retirement. But other support services such as specialist group insurances, employee assistance programmes (EAPs), charities, workshops and training can also prove invaluable.

The kind of support that many older workers find particularly useful includes:

• Help in understanding specific medical conditions and how best to manage symptoms;
• An explanation of treatment options;
• Suggestions for coping strategies;
• Assistance in ensuring they make the best use of whatever services are available, for example from the National Health Service (NHS), their employer, insurance company, specialist charities or social services;
• Being assessed and provided with occupational therapy or counselling to aid recovery rather than being subject to NHS waiting lists;
• Advice on appropriate workplace adjustments or therapeutic equipment.

Such services are generally available either individually or as part of a larger package via some group insurers, associations such as the Federation of Small Businesses and trade unions, which specifically tailor offerings for their members. Providing them not only helps employers to fulfil their duty of care, but also contributes to employee engagement, boosts loyalty and improves retention rates among the whole workforce.

Christine Husbands has been managing director of RedArc Nurses, a service that provides personal nurse advisers for people experiencing illness, disability, trauma or bereavement, since 2010. She spent the initial part of her career in financial roles and has held several board-level positions in financial services organisations.

Leave a Reply

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing