Kate Palmer from HR experts Peninsula describes how employers can help older workers through greater flexibility and understanding.
In the modern workplace, employees are staying in their jobs longer than ever, with recent research from the Nationwide Building Society outlining that three in 10 people over 60 are still working. With that in mind, employers must be aware of the issues that older employees can run into whilst at work and the circumstances where they need additional support from the company. Although there is no obligation on employers to allow their employees to vary their working hours, business owners should consider how flexible working can benefit older members of staff and help them to remain in their roles for longer.
As employees get older, they can find it difficult to conduct some of their usual duties. For example, if the job involves heavy lifting, this may prove more challenging than it used to and the employee may decide it is time for them to consider retiring as a result. Alternatively, the employee could want to spend more time with their family as they get older but aren’t quite ready to leave their job completely. Flexible working can present an alternative to retirement, enabling employees to remain in roles they enjoy whilst also giving them more time for outside commitments. Former employees who have previously retired may even want to return on reduced hours and employers should always consider the value of permitting this.
Older employees may also find themselves attending more medical appointments than the rest of a workforce, meaning that they are having to regularly time away from work during their normal hours. The time this takes could result in them struggling to meet certain deadlines and having to work through their lunch, or remain at work late, to make the time up. Agreeing upon flexible hours can help plan for the times that the employee may have appointment commitments and therefore take less pressure off them in getting to work. The hours that the employee needs to work could be altered with this in mind.
Aside from their circumstances, older employees are more likely to have caring commitments at home, such as a dependent partner, spouse or grandchildren, that a change in their hours would help them with. To give another example, allowing an employee to come in later on some days could allow them to remain at home until a carer was available to be with the person they are looking after for the rest of the day.
Employers should always remember that staff in this position are likely to be under a great degree of strain, something that can cause issues in their performance if not managed properly. It is therefore crucial that managers maintain a supportive and non-judgemental attitude to the situation if they want to get the best out of their employee.
When faced with a flexible working request from older employees, it is highly advisable that employers deal with it in line with the code of practice and only refuse it on one of the prescribed grounds. The business needs will always come first and it may not be possible for all employers to permit this practice. By allowing a flexible working request, business-owners can encourage more experienced employees to remain with their company for longer and continue to utilise their knowledge and experience.