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Businesses must take action on age in the workplace

More support for older workers was found to increase both staff loyalty and retention

Businesses need to take action on age in the workplace, according to research from Business in the Community (BITC).

Age in the Workplace, Retain, Retrain, Recruit states that between 2012 and 2022 an estimated 12.5 million jobs will open up through people leaving the workforce, and an additional two million new jobs will be created. Yet only seven million people will enter the workforce to fill these roles.

Support for older workers was found to increase loyalty and retention, improving productivity and reducing recruitment costs. The average cost of recruiting and training a new member of staff is estimated by the CIPD at £6,000, so supporting older workers already in the organisation has a strong business case, the report suggested.

However, separate research from Group Risk Development (GRiD) shows that 53% of employers have taken no steps to meet the needs of an ageing workforce. It found only 7% have refocused their health, wellbeing and absence management procedures to manage those with age-related conditions, and only 2% continue to provide group risk benefits for those aged over 65.

BITC suggested in its report that businesses carry out age and skills audits to reveal which operational areas will be under greatest pressure from skills gaps, so they can focus on training for older workers in these areas. It advised that action is particularly urgent in sectors where a larger proportion of employees are over 50, and which see a significant fall in the employment rate among those aged 60 to 64.

Speaking at an Age at Work round table event, David Blackburn, head of people at the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, said that firms should take a holistic approach. “When you speak to your older workers don’t just ask about their career,” he said. “You need to be a lot broader, as different approaches will work better for different individuals.”

Sarah Maskell, diversity and inclusion policy sponsor in the RAF, said that age is a key concern for her organisation. “People see our prime recruitment target as those aged 16 to 24,” she explained. “We would see people get to the end of their service and then drop out. People don’t realise that they could start their second or third career with us.”