Rachael Saunders: How can employers support older staff in the workplace?

By 2022, it is estimated that there will be a skills gap of 7.5 million jobs, according to the¬†Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s March 2012 report Managing a healthy ageing workforce: a national business imperative. To address this, businesses urgently need to encourage and enable older people to continue working later in life. So how can employers help their older workers to stay in employment?

Business in the Community’s Age in the workplace: retain, retrain, recruit report, published in September 2016, contains a number of recommendations for retaining older workers.

This includes: carrying out age and skills audits to assess which operational areas will be under greatest pressure, and start the conversation with employees now to help with planning for the future; giving employees the support they need for robust financial planning for later life; enabling remote working or flexible hours to support people working longer and manage health issues or caring responsibilities; understanding and tackling age bias in the context of the organisation, such as including age in unconscious bias training; supporting people through later life transitions, such as becoming a carer, developing a health condition, and bereavement; ensuring all line managers receive training and guidance to manage people at all ages and stages of their careers in a supportive and responsive way; proactively offering training at different levels to all employees, monitoring access to training by age to identify and address under-representation, and being open to additional training requests.

Employers should also consider how they can help older people who are currently unemployed and would like to return to work. In February 2017, Business in the Community as government business champion for older workers, led by Andy Briggs, called for employers to hire a million more older workers by 2022. We published a how-to guide for employers to support them in taking action to achieve that target.

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Employers need to recognise the opportunity that supporting their older workers and preparing for an ageing workforce can bring to their organisations. Harnessing the skills of older workers could bring huge benefits to UK businesses; now is the time for employers to act.

Rachael Saunders is age at work director at Business in the Community