HR managers wary of older workforce

2006

Many of Britain's HR managers - the very people who would expected to be in the forefront of effort to change workplace attitudes towards older workers - remain wedded to stereotypes that older people are sicker, slower and more expensive than their younger colleagues, according to new research.

Ahead of new Age Discrimination legislation coming into force at the beginning of next month, research from health insurer, BUPA. Suggests that the HR community is worried about the impact of an older workforce.

Half of all HR managers and directors interviewed for the study believe that the major drawback to employing people over the normal retirement age is increased sickness. Some one in six (16 per cent) felt that older workers are slower and more than one in 10 (12 per cent) view them as more expensive to employ.

Employers also believed that they were less adaptable, had obsolete skills and were less keen to progress.

The study also revealed that two thirds of HR directors and managers believe that people should retire at 65 years old, despite the new legislation placing a duty on employers to consider requests to work beyond this point.

Nevertheless, over half (58 per cent) still predict that the retirement age will have risen to between 66 and 70 by 2026.

The views of the HR profession are in stark contrast to those of the population as a whole, three-quarters of whom believe that no-one should be stopped from working no matter how old they are.

What's more, over two-thirds also said they would be willing to work until they were 70 if they could do a less demanding job, while just under half stated they would work if they knew that everybody else their age was also working.

The main benefits for working longer were seen as money, mental stimulation and keeping young and feeling useful to society – although a quarter saw no benefit in working over the normal retirement age.

Ann Greenwood, director of business markets for BUPA, said: "This research confirms what companies have been telling us for some time, although we were surprised that employers thought people should retire at 65 despite the new legislation.

"Employers should put appropriate plans in place to deal with an ageing workforce - getting it wrong could cost. Getting the right advice, however, is vital," she added.

"A good place to start would be looking at your existing employee benefits and checking they comply in areas such as age related eligibility, length of service and the structure of any benefits scheme."

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