Caring for older workers

When we talk about the problems of an ageing society it is all too easy to focus on those who may be in need of long-term care either through illness or injury. As a result we concentrate on areas such as the provision of health services including physiotherapy and osteopathy, nursing and home care. But there is another aspect of ageing populations which perhaps deserves greater focus. That is the challenge posed by older workers within an ageing workforce.


According to the Office for National statistics (ONS) by 2020 one third of the UK workforce will be aged over fifty. Fuelled by a number of factors including a rising state pension age and the government’s scrapping of the mandatory retirement age in 2011, people are generally looking to stay in the workforce far longer than was even the case a few years ago.


However, an ageing workforce brings its own problems, not the least of which is age discrimination. In July 2018 the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee reported that more than one million people aged over fifty who wanted to work were being locked out of the workforce due to age discrimination. Now we have a report from insurance company Aviva which reveals that 44% of those aged over fifty feel unsupported at work, compared with 25% of those aged 25 to 34.


What is the solution? Aviva suggest that employers need to provide rounded support for older workers in which their well-being, financial and work-related needs are considered. So one area for consideration may be to offer reduced hours or flexitime; helping people to optimise their time at work without becoming too fatigued. Other options might include access to healthcare services such as physiotherapy or podiatry, or bringing wellness clinics into the workforce in order that workers can discuss and obtain solutions for a range of health issues.


Caring for older workers also means enabling them to work smarter rather than harder. Although the Aviva study revealed that older workers are more confident about their ability to keep up with tasks and their own individual skill set than younger workers; that doesn’t mean that employers should become complacent about anybody’s ability to cope with daily tasks. Where technological solutions exist it simply makes sense to deploy them; thereby freeing up time which can be better utilised in other ways. And what’s good for employees is also good for employers.


Take the health sector for example. Why spend time in booking appointments over the phone when online booking services are available? Similarly, why telephone clients to remind them that their appointment is due when SMS messaging services could deliver reminders directly to phones? And whilst exercise in moderation is recommended in order to keep joints supple, do we really need to spend hours bending and stretching as we file patient notes, when electronic records are available?


63% of those in work aged over fifty are currently planning to retire later than they thought they would just ten years ago. The more support that employers can give to these older workers, the longer businesses will benefit from their skills and experience.