I just wanted to share with you this interesting article I read in the IOSH Connect newsletter this week.
Will it make you think differently about how you accommodate, help and treat your ageing workforce?
Keeping people over the age of 50 at work is becoming increasingly important. Those aged 50 and over already represent one in five of the workforce – and soon this proportion will rise to one in four as people continue to live, and work, longer.
The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggests that today’s workforce is likely to contain a higher proportion of older workers because of factors such as increased life expectancy, removal of the default retirement age and raising of the State Pension Age, which means that many people will need and want to continue working.
However, while the number of older workers is increasing, a concerning recent report by the HSE has shown the proportion of fatal injuries to workers over the age of 60 is the highest it has been in over a decade.
Nearly 40% of fatal injuries in 2017/18 – up from approximately 25% in 2016/17 – were to workers aged 60 and over, despite them making up just 10% of the national workforce. This highlights the urgent need for greater workplace precautions to protect older workers.
Through its support for the EU-OSHA campaign on ‘Healthy workplaces for all ages’, IOSH has encouraged greater preventative measures to be taken to promote sustainable work and healthy ageing throughout people’s working lives.
Research commissioned by IOSH and carried out by the Institute of Occupational Medicine explored the ageing process among older workers and assessed ways in which employers can better facilitate and meet the demands of an ageing workforce.
Here are five things employers need to know about an ageing workforce:
- While people’s reactions often get slower with age, this is offset by increased accuracy, accumulated knowledge and experience. Older workers can bring a significant level of expertise to a role that can be shared with colleagues and influence decision making.
- Muscle strength generally reduces with age – but this reduction can be slowed or even reversed by training. Making a concerted effort to accommodate the requirements of individual members of staff can improve productivity. Sensory abilities including vision and hearing also change with age, but through personal aids and a workplace assessment of the environment many of these changes can be accommodated.
- Flexible working arrangements can be tailored to suit older workers and enable an organisation to develop a more age diverse workforce. Some companies have introduced a series of flexible working initiatives that are designed to engage and retain older workers and to ease the transition to retirement. Examples include ‘Wind Down’, which is effectively part-time working in the later stages of an employee’s career and ‘Ease Down’, where employees reduce their working commitments in the approach to retirement. Workers over 50 often have domestic care responsibilities for spouses or elderly parents. This means flexible working is essential if they are to juggle their responsibilities.
- An approach to dealing with mental and physical decline includes interrelationships between the physical and mental health and wellbeing of the employee, the working role the individual is in, the motivations and skills of the individual and the broader work environment they are working in. Adjustments to these areas can have a positive influence on the performance of the employee.
- Consultations and action plans involving various professionals – including occupational physicians and other health professionals, HR staff and line managers – working together can reduce the likelihood of sickness absence and early retirement for health reasons.
A workforce with diversity of age, gender and ethnicity can be best suited to respond to the increasing globalisation of industries. By ensuring older workers have access to flexible working opportunities and support from within the business, employers will be better suited to respond to the challenges of ageing workforces.
Making positive changes in health behaviours will have an impact at any age and, for older workers, also have a positive effect into retirement.
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