Essex becomes first university to sign national pledge supporting older workers
The University of Essex has become the first university in the country to sign the Age-friendly Employer Pledge, recognising the value of workers over 50.
It is hoped that the university will be the first of many employers from the Higher Education sector to sign the pledge.
The University of Essex has joined the more than 230 employers who have signed the Centre for Ageing Better scheme in its first ten months.
The university has already launched a programme of initiatives to understand the views of older workers and support them.
Recent initiatives include focus groups with older employees, consulting research colleagues who have studied matters relating to older employees, including age as a protected characteristic, and appointing Professor Maria Fasli as inclusion champion for those of all ages.
Further actions will include designing a mid-life review to support employees in their career, health and finance.
Professor Maria Fasli, University of Essex Age Inclusion Champion, said:
“We value a multigenerational workforce and have made a commitment to an inclusive working environment for every member of our community, so that together we create a workplace that enables everyone to achieve their best and have fulfilling professional lives.
“Older members of staff form an important part of our community and we’re proud of our work over the last year supporting them, and excited about making this fresh commitment to recognising their value and maximising their potential.”
Established late last year by the Centre for Ageing Better, the Age-friendly Employer Pledge is a nationwide programme launched to help overcome ageism in the workplace and assist employers to resolve significant skills shortages and vacancy rates.
More than 230 employers have already signed the pledge including Oliver Bonas, Hachette, Compass Group, Reed Industrial and Zurich Insurance as well as three government departments, 13 local authorities and two NHS foundation trusts.
Tracy Riddell, Senior Programme Manager for Age-friendly Employment at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:
“We are always delighted to break into new sectors with the pledge because fully utilising the potential of older workers is for all employers, regardless of size or sector.
“It is excellent to have the University of Essex join the more than 200 organisations who have already committed to improving work for people in their 50s and 60s and beyond. Signing the pledge is a brilliant way for employers to develop their age-inclusive offer to employees and it is great to see Essex already taking action.
“We hope other higher education employers follow in their footsteps and sign our pledge.”
With one in five academic staff, and half of all professors, aged 56 and over, retention of older workers is key for higher education employers.
But with an ageing population and ever longer working lives, recruitment of workers in their 50s and 60s is becoming increasingly critical for employers in all sectors to help meet labour and skills shortages.
By signing the pledge, the University of Essex has committed to taking at least one action a year to improve the recruitment, retention and development of older workers.
Impact of supporting older workers
Dr Mary Kennedy is 65 and works part-time at Essex as a lecturer in the School of Health and Social Care.
She said: “As an over-50 employee at Essex age has never been an issue for me. I have the same access to training and development opportunities as staff of other ages and I am fortunate to work in an environment where colleagues value my skills and experience.
“There is an atmosphere of mutual support and a willingness to share ideas and listen to each other. Working part-time, with flexible hours, allows me to achieve a good work-life balance.”
Dr Peter Hall, 67 and also a lecturer in the School of Health and Social Care, has appreciated opportunities to help Essex shape its support for older workers.
He said: “I have been involved in focus groups and been able to voice my views around a range of subjects including flexible working patterns, and the value of part-time working. And as an older worker having experienced a short period of illness, I have valued how my team responded to and recognised the impact that an illness can have on an older colleague.
“Being over 50 at Essex has been a rewarding experience. There is a genuine interest to explore the contribution that people over 50 can bring while recognizing that older staff may have specific needs which can be enhanced by considering different patterns of work.”