With changes in retirement ages, greater life expectancy and the added financial challenges for many, the result has been a workforce that continues to age. There are many reasons why employers may want to retain or hire older workers, however, there are also considerations that come with managing an ageing workforce.
We explore some of the topics around employing and retaining older workers and offer some tips for making the most of this valuable resource.
Employment Rights of Older Workers
In the UK, older workers are protected by a range of employment rights that are designed to prevent age discrimination and ensure that they are treated fairly in the workplace. Below are some of these key employment rights.
Age discrimination: it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee or job applicant because of their age, especially when it comes to recruitment, training, promotion, or any other aspect of employment.
Retirement age: in the UK, there is no longer a default retirement age. This means that employers cannot force their employees to retire at a certain age unless there is a legitimate reason for doing so.
Redundancy: if an employer needs to make redundancies, they must ensure that the selection process is fair and does not discriminate against older workers. Longstanding employees who are older should not be targeted for redundancy simply because of their age.
Flexible working: older workers may have caring responsibilities or health issues that make it difficult for them to work full-time. Employers have a duty to consider requests for flexible working arrangements from all employees including older workers.
Pension rights: older workers are entitled to the same pension rights as younger workers. Employers must provide access to a workplace pension scheme and cannot discriminate against older workers when it comes to pension contributions or benefits.
Health and safety: employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of all their employees, including older workers. They should carry out risk assessments and make any necessary adjustments to the workplace to ensure that it is safe and suitable for all employees, regardless of age.
Tips for Employing and Retaining Older Workers
A great way to help retain older workers is to offer flexible work arrangements, whether that’s part-time work, job sharing, or hybrid working. These arrangements can help older workers to continue working while still having the time and flexibility to care for family members or pursue other interests.
Another way to help older workers stay positively engaged and productive is to provide training and development opportunities. This can help them keep up to date with new technologies and develop new skills, enabling them to contribute more effectively to the organisation.
Recruiting Older Workers
It goes without saying that companies must avoid age discrimination when recruiting new staff. The Equality Act 2010 prohibit employers from subjecting job applicants and employees, including contract workers and former employees, to age discrimination and harassment.
Job adverts should aim for age-neutral language and could additionally state open to all-age applicants. By tracking the age profiles of successful candidates, organisations can overcome any unconscious bias or discrimination. Businesses may also wish to offer apprenticeships for both older and younger workers.
During recruitment, candidates should be objectively evaluated based on their values, behaviours, competencies, and their ability to perform the job.
Employing older workers in the UK can bring many benefits to employers and the wider economy, bringing valuable skills and experience that can benefit other colleagues and can provide a stable and reliable workforce.
Moreover, with an ageing population and a shrinking labour market, it is becoming increasingly important for employers to recognise the potential of older workers and to create inclusive workplaces that value the contribution of all employees regardless of age.
By following the employment rights that protect older workers in the UK, employers can ensure that they are treating all employees fairly and helping to build a more diverse and sustainable workforce for the future.