How health support supports the retention of older workers
Long-lasting health conditions are one of the biggest drivers in the current rise of economic inactivity.
Our Employer Engagement and Network Manager, John Kiernan, discusses how employers and employees can better talk about managing such conditions and remove the stigma surrounding the issue.
One of the five key elements of the Age-friendly Employer Pledge is to ensure that everyone has the health support they need. However, our research shows that older workers can be reluctant to disclose emerging health conditions or disabilities to employers for fear of experiencing ageism.
I also know from conversations with our pledged employers that there is a need for more knowledge sharing on being better equipped to support mid-life and older workers with health support. This can be a key driver in retention of people.
Health and work
There is a nationwide challenge on health and work. Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that the percentage of people who reported a long-lasting health condition that limits either the kind or amount of work they can do has risen from 16.4% to 18.1%. This rise in work-limiting health conditions was the biggest factor in the rise of economic inactivity.
The effect of demographic trends and the pandemic has also contributed to the issue. The number of people economically inactive because of long term sickness has risen to over 2.5 million, an increase of more than 400,000 since the start of the pandemic. The biggest segment in that rise has been for people aged 50 and over.
What is the current picture in workplaces? The CIPD has recently published a report on health and wellbeing at work. The good news is that over the last year there has been an increase in the number of organisations providing support for menopause transition and pregnancy loss. However, the support offered for other health issues of life events such as chronic health conditions is more mixed.
The report also highlights a significant challenge of line manager lacking the skills and confidence to support their teams. Just 30% of their organisations polled provide guidance and or training for line managers on how to stay at work when managing health conditions.
So, what can be done to help employers? This blog from the Institute of Employment Studies highlights some of the common experiences that might predict future health- related job losses. These include factors such as chronic pain and fatigue, but also recognising the stigma and concerns around performance expectations. This is the double challenge in tackling the issue. It is not just the specific condition, but also the person’s perception of how to communicate it to their line manager and also their concerns about how management will react.
There are a number of models in approaching these conversations. Having a more holistic discussion about health and wellbeing, but also about financial planning, and job and career options is one positive idea that has gained momentum through models such as the mid-life career reviews. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has published their guide and links to resources at the Mid-Life MOT website .
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has also published a talking toolkit to help those conversations on long term health conditions and disabilities between a HR manager or line manager and a member of their team.
Centre for Ageing Better webinar
The Centre for Ageing Better is hosting a webinar on health support and older workers for our pledged employers network on November 28th where you can learn more about the subject together with support from Versus Arthritis.
You can join us if you sign up to the pledge with this information pack and we will be in contact.