A reminder about the resilience of contributions of older people
For 32 years, the UN has observed 1 October as “International Day of Older Persons”, with the theme for 2022 being the resilience and contributions of older women.
Ageing is a natural biological process which we all go through, with common difficulties in later life including hearing loss, arthritis, loss of eye sight, mobility problems, diabetes and dementia.
COVID-19 has exacerbated inequalities between younger and older people, especially women who constitute the majority of older persons. Although older people can make a meaningful contribution in business, they are often disregarded due to negative stereotypes because of their sex and age.
As people are living longer, employers need to recognise that their workforce is likely to get older. This year, the UN is encouraging employers to promote the importance of older women by encouraging inclusivity and showcasing their contributions.
It is unlawful to discriminate, harass or victimise another person on the grounds of a protected characteristic, which includes age and sex. Although there are circumstances in which some types of indirect discrimination can be justified, they are limited. As such, you should ensure that all aspects of your recruitment processes and employment practices are non-discriminatory – encouraging an inclusive culture.
Employers often have an equal opportunities policy in place. However, having a policy will not be sufficient unless it is regularly reviewed and updated, as well as effective training being provided to your staff and managers.
Businesses must also be mindful of the existing rules surrounding the legal right for employees to request flexible working after 26 weeks of continuous service, as well as the abolition some years ago of the statutory default retirement age.
In March 2022, the CIPD published a report entitled “Understanding Older Workers”. It set out several recommendations which organisations should consider when recruiting and retaining older staff:
- Enhanced flexible working - increasing the availability, provision and range of flexible working to attract and retain older workers.
- Early and ongoing support for health and wellbeing – with more than half of older workers having a long-term health condition, businesses should support staff throughout their working lives, promoting a healthy and active life, as well as introducing targeted occupational health support.
- Improving skills and training – employers should not assume older workers are less likely to be interested in training or career progression, and should actively look at exploring the possibility of targeted upskilling for older staff.
Over the next three decades, the UN estimates the total number of older persons worldwide to double. Whilst the increase is expected to be relatively small in the UK, it comes at a time when our own population is already older than many other parts of the world. This in turn will create problems for recruiting from overseas, existing staff wanting to work until they are much older, alternatively dealing with those wanting to take early retirement and the succession planning associated with the same, as well as younger staff taking time out to care for their relatives.
International Day of Older Persons gives us an opportunity to celebrate our older members of society, but also a chance to reflect on our ageing workforce and how an ageing society will impact younger colleagues. It is important to recognise their contribution to your business, but also identify what help and support they require in the months and years ahead in an ageing society.