Belfast Telegraph

Maximising 'added value' that older staff can provide

Health in the workplace

Dr Tony McGread, consultant in occupational medicine

Over the next 10 years it is predicted that there will not be enough young people to fill jobs available in the UK, the Chartered Institute of Professional and Development has said (CIPD). Employers will become more reliant on older people, and yet the impact of poor health may well reduce a person's ability to work, no matter what age.

Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Dame Sally Davis, believes that those aged 50 to 70 are better off staying in work, taking up new hobbies or keeping physically and mentally active.

Professor Davis is 67 and has said that she has no plans to retire, urging others to follow suit.

Her annual report suggested that those in paid employment past retirement age, or who were involved in community or voluntary work, improved their chances of staying healthier longer.

By January 2017 the number of workers aged over 65 in the UK had trebled within 25 years.

At present in Northern Ireland, 15% of the population are aged over 65, but Government figures suggest that will rise to 25% in 20 years.

This is due to longer lifespans, the age of retirement being put back with a change in State pension age, and the removal of default retirement age in the UK in keeping with the equality agenda.

So, on the basis of equality, age can no longer be a barrier to those willing to and capable of work. This should be a win/win situation for all concerned.

As such employers should be considering how best to maximise the undoubted 'added value' older workers can provide, including their maturity and undoubted work and life experiences.

While both these attributes may be difficult to quantify, most of us would agree these are often some of the benefits of older age. Employers must understand that we all age differently and 'healthy ageing' should not preclude the ability to work.

Simply using age as a criteria to understand who should stop working or not is not helpful, and has to be avoided.

That is, everyone needs to be considered in light of their personal situation.

Occupational health practitioners can help in this regard. They can provide assessments for employees to help maintain their health and well-being, and to advise on adjustments to treatment and work practices if needed to ensure people can remain at work.

That said, there are a number of normal physical changes that occur with ageing.

These can include a reduction in general levels of fitness, reduction in strength and, sometimes, an increased need for recovery time following illness and treatment.

However, managing these changes in the workplace in the form of age management means that the vast majority of jobs can be adjusted to deal with such changes.

Belfast Telegraph