There is “little evidence” of UK employers taking proactive steps to engage and retain older workers according to new research conducted by Cranfield School of Management and Nottingham Business School for Acas.
The authors of the research paper The Employment Relations Challenges of an Ageing Workforce conclude that if the UK economy is to fully benefit from the skills and experience of its older workers, a larger proportion of organisations will need to adopt age management policies and practices which are effectively communicated to their workforces.
Report co-author, Emma Parry, principal research fellow, Cranfield School of Management said: “Despite anti-age discrimination legislation, stereotypical attitudes about both older and younger workers appear to be both widespread and well embedded. To overcome this, companies need a supportive culture with policies and procedures that focus on supporting and capturing the skills and experience of older workers. And crucially managers need the expertise and knowledge to deliver on these organisational aims.”
John Taylor, Acas chief executive added: “An ageing workforce brings new challenges for employers – for instance, handling flexible working requests fairly and providing training or support to develop the careers of older workers. Having more people working longer means that employers also need to think about the job opportunities and career progression of the rest of the workforce.”
Employers will need to ensure their business policies and procedures are applied fairly and communicated appropriately to staff.
Taylor continued: “In difficult economic times, this issue may not be high on the agenda. Employers will undoubtedly need support and guidance to respond, but age issues should be embedded at the very heart of an organisation’s culture, and should not be a box ticking exercise to meet employment legislation.”
So where does this leave us both as employees and employers given that we will all have to work longer in the future. There is no longer a default retirement age and the target age for the statutory pension to kick in is going to be 70 in the longer term. In spite of legislation employees over 50 who lose their jobs struggle to find another so are we looking at a new group of long term unemployed? If so this will impact on the benefits bill increasing the amount spent when the government is hoping for a reduction. We need a fundamental rethink on employment in the third age and a better commitment to equality for older workers.