The Royal College of Nursing recognises the importance of supporting age diversity

Photo credit: © Andrew Baker

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has introduced a range of initiatives in recognition of the rising number of older workers.

The schemes are open to all employees at the organisation and are not age-specific. However, the workforce demographic has shifted in line with wider societal changes, says Andrew West, human resources manager, reward and systems. “The average age of [employees] is 45; 10 years ago 12% of our staff were over 55 and now that is 23%,” he says. “It’s just the new reality for us really. It’s not particularly something we’ve set out to do better, or to particularly target older workers, this is the reality of being an employer now in a lot of ways.”

The RCN offers a flexible-working scheme, called Smart Working, to support the work-life balance of employees. An employee is able to discuss working flexibly with their line manager, and that manager will ensure that the request does not affect the core business.

The policy also supports employees that have a caring responsibility, whether that is for children or elderly relatives.

“The number of people who are carers is growing exponentially every year. When [employees] have people in this age bracket they are more likely to have very elderly parents, children and grandchildren, so they have a slightly more 360-degree caring responsibility than other people,” says West.

“We try and take the view that people want to do their work and that that work is rewarding and challenging for them. Sometimes that means that time off, even under the greatest of time-off policies, is not always going to be the answer.

“The most effective reward is interesting work and having intrinsic motivation to do the job, so time off is only going to be an ideal short-term emergency measure, it’s not going to be a sustainable long-term answer all the time. We want to find a way for people to do both those things, not just always have to prioritise one over the other.”

The RCN also offers a year-long calendar of health and wellbeing events with a different theme each year. In 2017, the overall theme is health and happiness, while the focus in previous years has included topics such as musculoskeletal health.

Each office has a local health and wellbeing advocate that will lead mindfulness or yoga sessions. In addition, all employees can attend organisation-wide events.

West says: “It’s not specifically targeted at a particular demographic. Over the course of a year, some people might get more out of one quarter, but there’s something for everyone.”

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The organisation also offers phased retirement in a similar manner to its Smart Working policy: the employee makes a request to their manager detailing what they want to achieve, what the impact will be on the team and the organisation, and what the solutions might be.

“Creating a flexible enough package to meet the needs of older workers, younger workers and everyone in between, that’s just the kind of employer we are aiming to be,” says West.