We are now living in an ageing populationAgeing Workforce: Guidance for employers

This means that numbers of workers in the over 50 category are increasing. By 2020 almost a third of the UK workforce will be over 50. In August 2016 over 1.2million people were working beyond the age of 65.

Health and safety for any vulnerable group can be complex, but it is vital that all groups are cared for and not discriminated against – both ethically and legally. Crucially, compulsory retirement is now unlawful, as is age discrimination against employees, job applicants and trainees.

Did you know?

Retirement age is different from pension age. There is a State Pension age, that currently varies depending on date of birth and gender. This can be calculated using the Department for Work and Pensions Website ‘Check your State Pension age’ calculator which can be found here. Employees do not have to retire at this age.

It is unlawful, because of age, to:

  1. discriminate directly against anyone – unless it can be objectively justified
  2. discriminate indirectly against anyone – unless it can be objectively justified
  3. subject someone to harassment related to age
  4. victimise someone because of age
  5. discriminate against someone, in certain circumstances, after the working relationship has ended, unless objectively justified
  6. compulsorily retire an employee unless it can be objectively justified

Objectively justified means that the employer’s actions must be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

So what is the relevant Legislation?

Equality Act 2010

The Act came into force on 1st October 2010, providing protection against age discrimination in employment, training and adult education for people of all ages; and should be referred to in place of The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006.

The Employment Equality (Repeal of Retirement Age Provisions) Regulations 2011

These Regulations, which provide guidance on the abolition of the default retirement age, came into force on 6 April 2011. They state that employers are no longer be able to force staff to retire at the age of 65.

The benefits of an ageing workforce

  • Experience: many older workers have learnt from their successes and mistakes in the past. They often have strong customer relationships that have taken years to build.
  • Flexibility: many older workers who are approaching the state pension age would like to gradually reduce their working hours before completely retiring. Phased retirement can offer the ‘best of both worlds’ to employers since they enable the organisation to retain critical skills at reduced cost.
  • Knowledge: long-serving workers often have organisation-specific knowledge which they can pass on through mentoring.
  • Loyalty: older workers often have a stronger commitment to their organisation and are less likely to change jobs frequently.

Some actions you might consider:

  1. providing additional health checks for all staff, regardless of age
  2. persuading staff to take an interest in their health and fitness
  3. reforming work and retirement practices to help the organisation meet corporate social responsibility goals
  4. setting up an older workers’ employee network to identify better ways of using older workers, and Introducing flexible approaches to retirement.

Health and safety issues associated with an ageing workforce

When looking at older workers, age in itself, is not the determining factor for decline in capacity, it is an individual matter and not something that can be applied to a group.

In research studies it was found that:

  • muscle strength generally reduces with age but this reduction can be slowed or even reversed by training
  • grip strength was found to be reduced in the over-50s
  • there is moderate evidence to suggest that the need for recovery is greater in older workers
  • in older workers there is an increase in the nature and extent of self-reported musculoskeletal disorders (it is important to consider that older workers may have been exposed to risk for a longer time)
  • there is limited evidence that chronic neck and shoulder pain increases with age
  • balance (postural and functional) reduces with age
  • sensory abilities including vision and hearing change with age, with personal aids and positive changes to the working environment many of these changes can be accommodated
  • people’s reactions slow with age but this is offset by greater accuracy.

 Key Actions for the Employer

  • Understand relevant legislation and ensure policies are in place which will prevent age discrimination in all HR work areas; including recruitment and selection, determining pay, training and development, selection for promotion, discipline and grievances, countering bullying and harassment

  • understand the positive aspects of an ageing workforce

  • understand the health and safety issues most likely to affect an ageing workforce and put in place control measures to lower risk (risk assessments should be carried out regularly)

  • understand the age profile of the workforce in your industry, both locally and nationally

  • understand the value of skills and knowledge held by older workers, actively plan to maintain the talent base of your organisation to support business goals cost effectively

  • assess the activities involved in jobs and modify workplace design if necessary – make adjustments on the basis of individual and business needs, not age

  • consider modifying tasks to help people stay in work longer, but make sure you provide appropriate retraining

  • ensure that the developmental and career needs of older workers are considered

  • create and ensure a clear and supportive return to work process for those who take time off work due to illness. Ensure older employees have access to all the information and guidance they need, as well as knowing who they can approach for confidential support and guidance.

If you would like any further help or support, please please contact us by phone 01458 253682, email or via our Facebook page  or by Twitter.

Taunton & Somerset CPD Group at The Exchange House Taunton

Please remember that we now run these CPD events at the Exchange House, 12 – 14 The Crescent, Taunton TA1 4EB on a fortnightly basisExchange House Taunton and Somerset CPD Group

The next of the CPD events is listed below.

As previously requested, if you could let us know whether or not you can attend it would be greatly appreciated. Also, if you would like to give a talk, or know of somebody who would, please contact Jon.

Our next Seminar will be on Wednesday 30th January 2019 Could you please arrive by 12:30pm prompt.

Our speaker for this one is Ian Hayward of SIG Design & Technology will talk about Roof Design

 If you haven’t already booked your place, or if you are not on the CPD Seminar mailing list but would like to be please drop Jon an email and he will deal with your request.

As per our last one if you could let Jon know whether or not you can attend within 7 days of receipt of his email, it would be greatly appreciated.

Contact Details [email protected]07831 714199 or 01458 253682

*Early notice of 13th February meeting. Craig Huxley of Triflex (UK) Limited will talk about Creative Car Parks

For more details about these and the other forthcoming CPD talks please see cpds to 13th March 2019