Have grey hair, will work?



The colour of Fiona Bruce’s hair has been causing much consternation of late. The TV presenter says that she must dye it in order to fit the BBC’s unwritten guidelines regarding women on TV. She may well be right but the effects of an ageing population are having an impact on the wider workforce. How Vistage members deal with this change in their workforce demographics is going to be increasingly important over the next couple of decades.

Insurance company Aviva recently released their annual Health of the Workplace report. Their key findings are that:

29% of employers are already seeing a rise in the average age of employees

37% of employers expect to see their workforce get older in the future

38% believe that ageing workforce health issues will impact their company

The removal of the Default Retirement Age, increased longevity and continued financial pressures on the over 55s(2) mean nearly a third (29%) of employers are already seeing a rise in the average age of their workforce, while 37% expect to see it get older in the future. And although half (50%) of employers believe there are positive benefits for individuals working past the traditional retirement age, nearly two fifths (38%) predict that health issues associated with an ageing workforce will impact their business.

Sickness related problems were cited as one of the main areas of concern for businesses. A quarter (24%) of employers are concerned that an increase in the numbers of older employees will see sickness absence rates rise. A similar proportion of employers (26%) were concerned that older employees would be absent with more serious conditions than their younger colleagues. Not surprisingly, nearly three-quarters (70%) of employers believe that health issues in the workplace will increase because older employees suffer from different medical complications to younger employees.

Embracing this change in the age of their workforce and recognising the need to review the support and benefits they offer older workers, a third (29%) of employers said they would need to offer different health advice. One in five (18%) said they would need to offer different health benefits and a quarter (23%) of employers said they would need training to help spot signs of serious illness, such as dementia. Over a third (36%) realised they may need to introduce flexible working hours for older employees.

Dr Doug Wright, medical director for Aviva UK Health says: "Life expectancy has been increasing for some time now and we are clearly seeing more people working past the traditional retirement age to meet their financial commitments or to help keep themselves fit and active. With that, employers are undoubtedly going to see some employees with conditions that are more common in older people, such as certain forms of cancer and cardiovascular disorders.

"It's encouraging to see from our report that employers recognise the role they hold in helping to keep their employees healthy - and in particular the need to adapt the support and benefits they offer to suit the differing healthcare needs of an older workforce."

Balancing the different needs of an older workforce are the benefits which many employers gain from employing older staff. Increased experience; more commitment; greater flexibility thanks to no childcare responsibilities; better interpersonal skills and reduced rates of absenteeism are all cited as positive aspects of an ageing workforce.

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