Friday, December 28, 2007

MetLife Reports on Profile of Boomers Turning 62 in 2008

As the first Americans of the baby boom generation turn 62 and thus become eligible for early Social Security benefits, MetLife has released a report profiling these boomers, including their finances, retirement plans, and more. According to the survey report--"Boomers Ready to Launch", 31% plan to apply for Social Security when they turn 62, and 32% say they will wait until age 66 or beyond when they can receive full benefits.

In addition, 68% say they have employee or retiree health insurance. Forty-seven percent are covered by a defined benefit plan, 50% have a 401K, 50% have an IRA.

Source: MetLife Mature Market Institute News Release (December 27, 2007)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

EEOC Rules that ADEA Is No Barrier to Employers Coordinating Health Plans with Medicare

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has published a final rule allowing employers that provide retiree health benefits to continue the longstanding practice of coordinating those benefits with Medicare (or comparable state health benefits) without violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

Following a period of litigation arising from a 2000 federal circuit court decision that the ADEA requires that the health insurance benefits received by Medicare-eligible retirees be the same, or cost the employer the same, as the health insurance benefits received by younger retirees, the regulation now provides an exemption for ADEA coverage for the common and longstanding employer practice of "coordinating" those benefits with Medicare by supplementing the government healthcare or by offering retirees a "bridge" benefit to cover health expenses after employees retire until they become Medicare-eligible.
“Implementation of this rule is welcome news for America’s retirees, whether young or old,” said Commission Chair Naomi C. Earp. “By this action, the EEOC seeks to preserve and protect employer-provided retiree health benefits which are increasingly less available and less generous. Millions of retirees rely on their former employer to provide health benefits, and this rule will help employers continue to voluntarily provide and maintain these critically important benefits in accordance with the law.”
Source: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Press Release (December 26, 2007)

Other Sources: Des Moines Register "Don't make it harder to give health benefits to retirees" (January 2, 2008); AARP News Release (December 27, 2007)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

New Hampshire: State Groups Meet on Aging Issues

Public officials, nonprofit executives and public policy advocates met in December for an in-depth discussion about New Hampshire's aging work force, the looming challenges posed by baby-boomer retirement, and ways to make it easier for older Americans to remain engaged in their communities. According to U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford, who leads Experience Wave, a campaign supported by The Atlantic Philanthropies, working in Congress and state legislatures to advance the interests of mid-life and older workers and volunteers:
Their desire to stay involved presents a greater opportunity for businesses, nonprofits, communities, and the federal and state governments. In fact, we cannot afford to miss this opportunity to engage experienced older workers in continued employment and civic service.
Experience Wave wants New Hampshire legislative leaders to think about the state's aging workforce and what can be done to help baby boomers continue to participate in the economy as they approach retirement age.

Sources: SeacoastOnline "Keeping baby boomers involved" (December 21, 2007); Boston Globe "Advocacy groups wants to keep older workers engaged" (December 20, 2007)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Aging Workforce Number Two Concern of Electric Utility Industry

While service reliability continued to rank as the No. 1 overall concern of the electric utility industry in 2007, according to an annual survey conducted by Black & Veatch, a leading global engineering, consulting and construction company, the aging workforce moved up to No. 2 from No. 5 in in the 2006 survey. The survey--2007 Strategic Directions in the Electric Utility Industry Survey--reports on the opinions, activities, and future plans of energy companies in the North American power industry.

Independently-operated utilities have started to implement new hiring/training programs to address the issue. However, municipals and "others" still rely heavily on existing hiring and training practices. Other approaches, including automation, outsourcing and new knowledge management systems continue to rank lower among the survey's respondents.

Source: Black & Veatch Press Release (December 18, 2007)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Conference Board Launches Mature Workforce Employer-Practices Locator

The Conference Board has launched an Employer-Practices Locator--a web-based database that enables employers, reporters, and researchers to locate examples of specific actions companies have taken to address the challenges presented by the mature workforce.

According to the Conference Board, the Locator is searchable by key word or company name. The database selects, pulls together, and summarizes material from a variety of print and online sources from 1996 to the present. It delivers a more select list of results than a user would get using a search engine such as Google or Yahoo. It includes a broader range of companies and industries than the perennial examples that are most frequently cited.
"The database answers the question: 'Who is doing what in the fast-growing world of the mature workforce,'" says Linda Barrington, Director of Research for The Conference Board. "Any employer working with this important labor sector-or writing about it-will find the Locator a valuable shortcut to a wealth of real-world examples of what can and is being done."
Industries covered in the database include healthcare, utilities, transportation, chemicals, manufacturing, and government. The search result output includes the citation for each reference, its length and a summary of its content including companies mentioned and related key words. A URL is also provided, when available, so the user can click through to the source.

Source: Conference Board Press Release (December 17, 2007)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Conference Board Suggests Strategic Business Opportunity in Reinventing Aging Workforce

According to a report from The Conference Board, despite warnings of disaster tied to the impending retirement of the first wave of baby boomers, smart companies can actually benefit from this change in the workforce if they plan carefully. Specifically, companies need to analyze their own employee data. Mary B. Young, Senior Research Associate, The Conference Board, and author of the report, says that is "the only way to accurately forecast whether aging and retirement will impact their workforce and, if so, exactly when and where. Once employers know that, they can take the appropriate actions, rather than under- or over-reacting."

Based on a case-study methodology to investigate the aging workforce and its ramifications, the report--"Gray Skies, Silver Linings: How Companies are Forecasting, Managing, and Recruiting a Mature Workforce"--draws several practical conclusions:
  • Organizations can use strategic workforce planning to assess the impact of approaching retirements on their ability to execute business strategy;
  • Companies that effectively manage mature workers treat them with respect, discern their needs rather than making assumptions, and offer such benefits as flexible work arrangements, affinity groups, and financial and retirement planning;
  • Recruiting mature workers may not even be on the radar screen for some companies, but it's a priority for employers who face a shrinking supply of younger workers, or who want a workforce that mirrors their mature customer base;
  • Knowledge transfer from mature and/or retiring workers to younger staff is key to preparing for inevitable retirements; and
  • Through partnerships with other employers, government programs and nonprofits, companies can get more bang for their buck when forecasting, managing and recruiting mature workers.
Source: Conference Board Press Release (December 13, 2007)

Research: Generational Differences in Perceptions of Older Workers

According to a new paper published by the Center on Aging and Work/Workplace Flexibility at Boston College, older workers are very positive about themselves and the company they work for, but are more likely to perceive that younger workers are given preference in training and development opportunities.

Authored by Jacquelyn B. James, Ph.D., Jennifer E. Swanberg, Ph.D., and Sharon P. McKechnie, Ph.D., the research underlying the paper--"Generational Differences in Perceptions of Older Workers’ Capabilities"--focused on two questions: (1) How do Traditionalist Generation workers rate themselves in comparison to how Baby Boom workers, and Generation X and Y workers rate them on 11 characteristics deemed to be important qualifications for continued work in later life? (2) If employees perceive their workplace environment to be less likely to offer opportunities for training and promotion for older workers, what effect does this have on their own well-being, and on their commitment to the organization?

With respect to the first question, responses for six of the characteristics varied with age. Specifically, responses were significantly more negative with each successive generation, from Traditionalists to Generation Y for the ability of older workers to serve as mentors, seeing older workers as reliable, deeming them to be more productive than younger workers, seeing them as adaptable to new technology, eager for training, and flexible. With respect to the second question, employees from the three older generations who perceived equal promotion opportunities for older workers were all significantly higher in employee engagement than those who did not, but for generation Y, workers reported significantly lower levels of employee engagement when they perceived workers over 55 had the same opportunities for promotion as younger workers.
Managers have a complex balancing act to meet the expectations and needs of a multi-generational ρρworkforce. Many employees in the older generations still want and need training, development, and recognition for their work in terms of promotion. However, employees from the youngest generation can become discouraged if they see all the opportunities and promotions going to workers from the older generations. Determining which staff will be developed and promoted will have to be based on some transparent standard not related to age or generation. This issue is one that managers will need to handle carefully to ensure retention and engagement from employees of all generations.
Source: Center on Aging and Work/Workplace Flexibility Issue Brief No. 12 (November 2007)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Urban Institute Encourages Institutions to Take Full Advantage of Older Adults' Potential

The Urban Institute has released a study and policy brief, based on data from the Health and Retirement Survey, that shows that over 10 million healthy older adults with no caregiving responsibilities did not work or volunteer in 2004 and that about half of these were are under age 75 and 9 out of 10 have prior work experience. Accordingly, the Institute says, given this untapped potential, shortages of volunteers and workers should prompt employers and nonprofits to court this talent.

The paper--"Are We Taking Full Advantage of Older Adults' Potential?"--came to this conclusion after estimating the potential for increasing engagement among adults 55 and older. It defined engagement as working for pay or volunteering for an organization. The paper summarizes the literature that documents the key benefits of engagement at older ages, examines engagement rates among older adults and the characteristics that distinguish the engaged from the unengaged, estimates which and how many unengaged older adults would most likely benefit from increased engagement opportunities, and asks how well demand for older workers and volunteers is likely to mesh with supply.

Source: Urban Institute Policy Brief (December 13, 2007)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Law Firms Confront Aging Workorce in Their Own Profession

Elizabeth Goldberg writes in American Lawyser that as baby boomers hit their 60s, U.S. law firms are trying to keep the most experienced and talented ones from walking out the door. She tells older lawyers that are healthy and productive and eager to keep working, that law firms want them and are willing to help out with work/life balance, setting one's own schedule, and getting flexibility. She cites one study showing that boomers now constitute 70% of law firm partners. "Boomers will not only challenge traditional notions of when partners retire, but also how they do so."
Already, retirement age is a hot topic in law firms, especially as mandatory retirement policies have increasingly come under attack. In January the New York State Bar Association issued a report opposing mandatory retirement on the grounds that it is archaic and unfair. In August the American Bar Association adopted the New York Bar report and recommended that all firms end forced retirement. And in October, Sidley Austin settled a long-standing age discrimination case with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that included a promise to revoke the firm's mandatory retirement policy.
According to an American Lawyer survey of the top 200 firms, in 69% of them, 20-39% of the equity partners are age 50 or older, and at 23% of firms, more than 40% of the partnership is 50 or older. Furthermore, 64% of the firmsd have a mandatory retirement age, ranging mostly from 65 to 70.

Source: American Lawyer "Law Firms Face Gray Area as Boomers Age" (December 10, 2007)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Netherlands: Parliament Debates Plans To Boost Older Workers

According to news reports, in the context of a debate on the social affairs ministry budget,
members of the Dutch Parliament from across the political spectrum are drawing up plans aimed at boosting the percentage of older people at work. "Christian Democrat MPs want to combat the ‘negative image’ attached to older workers, news agency ANP reports. MP Eddy van Hijum, who is launching the CDA’s plan, says employers often mistakenly believe that older members of staff are less productive and take more days off sick."

In addition, Liberal party members propose scrapping the unemployment premium for employees over 55 and want an end to the age limit of 45 which has become the norm for jobs in the police force. Labour MPs want employers to invest not only in younger workers by making sure that all members of staff are legally entitled to extra training and are proposing a "no risk" policy for older workers which would free employers from paying sick benefits.

Source: DutchNews "MPs want boost for older workers" (December 11, 2007); "MPs back plan to boost older workers" (December 11, 2007)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Canada: Study Presents Value of Partnership between Small Business and Older Workers

According to a study conducted by Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), small business and older workers form a valuable partnership in dealing with the skills and labour shortage in Manitoba. CFIB reports that the study--"Small Business & Older Workers--shows that almost half of small businesses employ at least one older worker over the age of 60 and are actively taking steps to retain them.

The steps taken by small business to retain older workers include allowing greater flexibility with hours, reducing the physical demands of the job, offering part-time or job sharing options, and allowing unpaid time-off for activities/volunteering. The report's conclusion states:
Concern over the shortage of qualified labour among small business owners in Western Canada will likely continue for many years. While there is no silver bullet solution to this challenge, one solution is to improve the participation rate of older workers, to encourage older workers who have already left the workforce to return and to maximize the contribution of older workers in the workforce from a small business perspective.
Source: Canadian Federation of Independent Business
Media Release (December 6, 2007)

Internet Radio Podcast Series Launced for Jobseekers Age 50 and Over Who Need to Remain Employed

"Job Security 50+ How To Be Employable for Life"--a radio pilot program aimed at jobseekers over the age of 50--has been launched by Jackstreet Media and AARP. The program, cohosted by AARP's Director of Employment Security Deborah Russell and author Anthony Burnham, is designed to serve the needs of mature workers who either want or need to work beyond the traditional age of retirement. The program aims to help older workers stay on top of the skills, insights, and new resources needed to get and keep a good job at 50 and beyond.

Programs are streamed over the computer or can be downloaded to an mp3 player. and may be streamed via computer or downloaded to an mp3 player. Currently, there are monthly programs of around 10 minutes each. For example, the November 1 program was almost 13 minutes long on the topic "Thew New Face of Work in America" and featured James O'Toole, who served as Chairman of the National Task Force on Work in America.

Source: News Release (December 6, 2007)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Urban Institute Panel Discusses Benefits of Working Longer

The Urban Institute conducted a panel discussion focused the "demographic tsunami" that the United States faces as the first wave of baby boomers reaches the age of Social Security entitlement. "The decline in the ratio of working adults to retirees and rising health care costs will strain the federal budget and reduce per-capita economic growth. Increased employment of older Americans could help sustain economic growth and fiscal solvency."

Panelists addressed whether, in light of the recent reversal of the century-long trend toward lower labor force participation rates at older ages and while improved health, jobs' reduced physical demands, relatively lower Social Security benefits, and a continued decline in traditional pension benefits will encourage more people to work longer, will the right jobs for older workers be there? A complete audio recording of the opening remarks of Robert Reischauer, Urban Institute, presentations by Katherine Reynolds Lewis, Newhouse News Service, Eric Toder, Urban Institute, Barbara D. Bovbjerg, U.S. Government Accountability Office, Sharon Masling, Workplace Flexibility 2010, and Cynthia Metzler, Experience Works Inc., as well as a question and answer session is available.

In conjunction with this, the Urban Institute also published:Source: Urban Institute "Who Will Hire Me When I'm 64? Challenges in Increasing the Employment of Older Workers (December 4, 2007)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

United Kingdom: TUC Head Calls for Full Use of Older Workers

Trades Union Congress (TUC) General Secretary Brendan Barber, delivering the Life Academy annual lecture in London, called for employers to fully use older workers and the for the UK government to give older workers more choice about how and when they retire. In order not to waste the experience and talent of older workers

Barber presented four key dimensions to the age management challenge as part of the bold, imaginative policies that are needed to cover the full spectrum of issues:
  1. Invest in the skills of older workers. The TUC is calling for a right to retraining for older workers, with paid time off to learn new skills, supported where appropriate by subsidies for employers.
  2. Take a flexible approach to retirement--do not compel people to work past the state retirement age, but offer the opportunity to work longer for those who want to. At the same time, make retirement itself less of a dramatic cut-off point, less of a cliff edge.
  3. Do more to promote flexible working for all by coming to grips with how we enable everyone to balance work and family life.
  4. Promote well-being among older workers. Employers should make reasonable adjustments to enable older staff to perform to their full potential, backed by redeployment opportunities and proper investment in occupational health.
Source: Trades Union Congress News Release (November 21, 2007)

Europe: Expert Encourages Labor Market Reform in Advance of Aging Workforce

The European Union needs to undertake far-reaching labour market reforms if it wants to be able to safeguard its social security system, according to a Policy Brief written by Fabian Zuleeg and released by the European Policy Centre. Otherwise, it is not clear that Europe's social security system "will be affordable with fewer payers and a disproportionate rise in the number of recipients of, in particular, pensions and health care."

At a briefing on the issue, as reported by Jochen Luypaert, Zuleeg said that employment rates need to increase, especially among women, older people, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and low-skilled people.
The EPC expert proposed to get rid of early retirement schemes, raise the retirement age and introduce policies that engage older workers in the labour market.

One of the proposed ways to avoid companies laying off older workers is to make sure that their wages correspond to their productivity, even if this means that older workers are paid significantly less than is currently the case.
Source: European Policy Centre Policy Brief (November 16, 2007)

Additional Source: EUobserver "EU labour market reform 'urgent'" (November 29, 2007)

Survey: Starting Salaries Rise as Facility Managers Age

A salary survey conducted by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) and Building Operating Management magazine shows increased compensaton as an aging workforce affects the facility management profession. According to Profiles 2007 Salary Report, the facility management industry is experiencing an aging workforce and a jump in salaries for those entering the field. Specifically, the base salary for those with less than four years experience rose nearly 13% from $56,000 in 2004 to $63,000 in 2007, while the median age of facility managers rose from 47 to 49.
Workers 45 or older increased from 62 percent in 2004 to 68 percent this year, with those 55 and older increasing from 20 to 25 percent during the same period.

While the average age of facility managers is on the rise, the number of young workers entering the field is on the decline. Workers 35 to 44 years old decreased from 30 percent in 2004 to 25 percent in 2007, with the number of workers younger than 35 also declining, from 9 percent to 7 percent. Only 2 percent of facility managers surveyed were 29 or younger.
Source: International Facility Management Association Press Release (November 26, 2007)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hawaii: Census Bureau Issues Profile of the Older Worker

In a continuation of its partnership with 31 states on a series of reports on workers 55 and older, the Census Bureau has released its report on Hawaii, the sixth state to be released in the series. Among the highlights of the report--"The Geographic Distribution and Characteristics of Older Workers in Hawaii: 2004":
  • 15.9% of workers were 55 and older, while 3.6% were 65 and older; and
  • the state's hotel and food service industries employed the greatest number of older workers, with about 15% of the workers 55 and older being in these two sectors.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau News Release (November 26, 2007)

Other Sources: Hawaii Advertiser "Hawaii employers fret over aging workforce" (November 27, 2007)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

United Kingdom: Prudential Survey Shows Workers Retiring Early, but Golden Age is Ending

Accounts of a new Prudential survey in the United Kingdom state that, despite widespread concern about the pensions crisis, people planning on retiring in 2008 have in many cases never had it so good. Nevertheless, according to the Prudential Class of 2008 Retirement Report, 2008 could be the beginning of the end for the golden age of retirement with younger generations facing a very different retirement future as experts warn 80% of final salary schemes are now closed to new members.

Reporting to be the first major study of people retiring in a specific year, the study finds the average age for men to give up work is 60 while women are retiring at an average 58 compared to statutory retirement ages of 65 and 60. Specifically, around 11% of men retiring in 2008 will be more than 65, while 33% of women will be more than 60.

Source: "Retiring next year? You've never had it so good" (November 24, 2007)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Older Workers Report Lower Levels of Work-Related Stress

A study conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR) finds that older workers generally report low levels of work-related stress. ISR researcher Gwenith Fisher and her colleagues presented the results of their research at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America. Based on 2006 data from 1,544 participants, the study examined the prevalence of different kinds of job stressors reported by participants between the ages of 53 and 85.
Just over half agreed or strongly agreed that they have competing demands being made on them at work, and 47 percent agreed that time pressures are a source of job stress.

Only 19 percent of older workers indicated that they have poor job security, however. "Given what we know about the extent of age discrimination at work and the current economic climate regarding unemployment, this is a surprisingly low number," said Fisher.
For older and younger workers facing work-related stress, Fisher recommended a few basic guidelines:
  • taking good care of oneself--getting enough sleep and regular physical exercise; and
  • engaging in active time management--keeping track of tasks and set priorities and establishing clear boundaries in order to set aside some time that isn't available for any work.
Source: University of Michigan News Release (November 19, 2007)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Canada: Workplace Institute Announces Winners of Top Employers of Older Workers

Workplace Institute announced its winners of its 2008 Best Employers Award for 50 Plus Canadians. The nine companies chosen on the basis of a written application and the results of an in-depth interview were HSBC Bank, Merck Frosst, Stream, EDS Canada, Wal-Mart Canada, Home Instead Senior Care, Metasoft Systems Inc., and Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto.
"This year’s winners realize that boomer and veteran workers are the key to weathering talent shortages and are taking some novel approaches to attracting and retaining 45+ employees,” says the Workplace Institute’s Barbara Jaworski, founder of the awards and author of KAA-BOOM! How to Engage the 50-Plus Worker and Beat the Workforce Crisis. “The judges felt these organizations had found ways to meet their business and mature workforce needs by using strategies in one or more of the areas of career development, retention, recruitment, workplace culture/practices, management practices, health support, retirement/retiree practices, benefits, pension and/or recognition.”
Source: Workplace Institute Press Release (November 21,2007)

AARP Creates Workfore Assessment Tool

AARP has announced the creation of a new online tool to help employers assess their current and future workforce needs and the impact of an aging workforce. The AARP Workfore Assessment Tool is available free to employers and requires the use of Adobe Reader. The tool automatically generate a report that can help an employer:
  • Assess any potential impact the aging workforce will have on the organization;
  • Map out current employer practices and identify areas for improvement;
  • Provide recommendations on how to maximize the experience of an organization's older workforce; and
  • Provide an inventory of workplace strengths that can be used to enhance the employer's brand.
Source: Casa Grande Valley Newspaper "Assessment tool helps employers prepare for aging workforce" (November 20, 2007)

Survey: Top 50 Places for a "Retirement Job" in the United States has released its list of the 50 best places in the United States for those seeking retirement jobs. A "retirement job" for these purposes can span a large spectrum and include, among others, workers who have achieved the traditional retirement age of 62 to 63 yet continue to work to those who have retired (stopped working in their primary occupation) but seek to resume working or begin a second career ad to individuals age 50 to 65 who have been “involuntarily retired” and need to become reemployed on a full time basis.

The factors considered for "The 50 Best Places for Retirement Job Seekers" in the selection of a locatokn as a "Best Place" include:
  1. General employment growth;
  2. Unemployment rate;
  3. Housing costs;
  4. General cost of living;
  5. Prevalence of key retirement job opportunities;
  6. Presence of "Age Friendly Certified Employers™"; and
  7. Healthcare services.
Source: Press Release (November 21, 2007)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

IBM, Universities Collaborate on Technology Tools to Assist Older Workers

IBM has announced that it is collaborating with researchers at the University of Dundee School of Computing (UK) and the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine to develop open source software technology tools to accommodate the needs of older workers to help them adapt to and remain productive in the changing workplace of the 21st century. In particular, the focus is to support maturing workers who have age-related disabilities by finding new ways to increase their comfort level and ability to use technology, to develop and integrate structures, systems, tools, and processes that facilitate the inclusion of more people, irrespective of their age, abilities or personal challenges.
"This collaboration is a superb opportunity for the group in Dundee to apply our wide experience of research with older people, and of developing better ways of accessing technology, in an exciting new transatlantic partnership with IBM and the Miller Medical School in Miami," said Professor Peter Gregor, Head of the School of Computing at the University of Dundee. "The open source focus makes the challenges particularly rewarding because it means that knowledge gained and systems developed will be available freely to the people who need them and to other developers."
Source: IBM Press Release (November 18, 2007)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

United Kingdom: Engineering Firms Redesigning for Older Workers

The Royal Academy of Engineering has released a study showing that engineering businesses are re-designing the future of work in order to cope with the ageing population. The survey of 208 engineering businesses was commissioned by the Royal Academy to investigate awareness and opinion relating to older employees within engineering based businesses.

According to "Engineering Employers Research 2007," 44% of the firms experienced recruitment difficulties over the last year; 49% believed their workforce would face a shortage of young people over the next decade; and 71% are concerned about the loss of skilled workers as employees retire. In response to this, according to the survey:
  • 91% of the firms favor their employees working beyond the age of 65;
  • 58% offered re-training to their older workers;
  • 36% had increased the pay of older workers to encourage them to stay in employment;
  • 46% enabled retirees to return to work; and
  • 30% had created a reserve of retired workers who can be called upon to work on discrete projects as and when required.
Source: Royal Academy of Engineering News Release (November 16, 2007)

Study: Injured Older Workers Less Likely to Seek Emergency Room Treatment

A study released by National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc.(NCCI) shows that younger workers (ages 20–34) use the emergency room on a higher percentage of claims than do older workers (ages 45–64). Analyzing worker's compensation data on claims submitted between 1996 and 2003, the study--"Younger Workers vs. Older Workers Going to the Emergency Room: Explaining Differences in Utilization and Price" (Fall 2007)--found that hospital that the younger workers are 17% more likely to visit a hospital ER than are the older employees. In addition, the share of ER claims to total claims was 5.9% greater for younger workers. The authors suggest that a possible reason for the difference is that younger workers are less likely than older workers to have medical insurance and, therefore, a regular doctor.

The NCCI study also tried to gauge whether there were age-related differences in costs for ER procedures. However, the prevalence of “bundled” charges in hospital billing precluded a complete analysis of payment per service between
younger workers and older workers. Where individual procedures could be clearly identified (for medical examinations in the ER), age-related “price” differences were generally low.

Source: National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc. What's New (November 14, 2007)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Australia: Employee Engagement the Key To Keeping Mature Workers Active in Workplace

According to research from the Voice Project at the Department of Psychology at Macquarie University, higher levels of engagement may lead to increased participation rates by mature-aged workers, as engagement has been shown to be associated with positive organizational outcomes such as reduced absenteeism, higher productivity, and lower turnover rates. After surveying workers in age brackets 20-30, 30-40, 40-50, 50-60 and 60 plus, Nick Vrisakis from Voice Project said researchers found there were some significant differences. While younger workers valued career opportunities, rewards and recognition, for older workers wellness was the strongest driver of engagement over and above salary and seniority.
"These results suggest that older workers are looking for less stress in their working lives and that this may be related to the nature of the role rather than the number of hours worked. Older employees may be happy to work full-time hours if it means they can be exposed to less stress or at least maintain a sense of wellbeing. If older workers could wind down whilst continuing to work it may be that many would continue to work full-time."
In addition, the research showed that overall older workers were more satisfied, committed and had a stronger intention to stay with their organizations. As Vrisakis pointed out, this is good news for employers who are seeking to attract or retain mature-aged workers and provides incentive for other employers to do so.

Source: Macquarie University Press Release (November 14, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

MetLife Study Provides Case Studies of Companies Successfully Implementing Programs Addressing Changing Workforce Demographics

MetLife Mature Market Institute has released a study exploring what proactive organizations are doing to creatively meet the challenges posed by an
aging workforce, including in-depth case studies about four companies that have successfully implemented programs to address the changing workforce demographics: Boston Scientific, First Horizon Corporation, The Aerospace Corporation and Weyerhaeuser. Among other things, the study provides insights for HR managers on such topics as implementing effective flexible work arrangements, helping older workers successfully transfer knowledge, and devising creative solutions for rehiring retirees.

The study, "Searching for the Silver Bullet: Leading Edge Solutions for Leveraging an Aging Workforce", which was developed in collaboration with David DeLong & Associates, suggests a number of lessons that can be learned, including:
  • The need to think of phased retirement or flexible work options as a program, not a policy;
  • How to create effective knowledge sharing relationships between older mentors and younger
  • The need to make knowledge transfer an explicit part of any job when rehiring a retiree; and
  • Why companies must stop searching for the “silver bullet” and recognize that there is no quick fix to these workforce challenges.
In addition, the study provides specific tips to help employers:
  1. Create and leverage a network of former employees;
  2. Rehire retirees indirectly on a project basis when pension restrictions prevent direct re-employment;
  3. Hire retirees with special expertise to innovate on critical projects; and
  4. Tap the expanding pool of older people seeking employment.
Source: MetLife Mature Market Institute Press Release (November 14, 2007)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Australia: Reactions to Proposals for Grandparent Leave

Duing a debate late in the election campaign, Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey said the government would introduce a law that would allow new grandparents to take unpaid leave. According to a story by Michael Edwards, reaction to the proposal (which echoed some earlier suggestions) was mixed. Thus, while demographers say it is an acknowledgement of the increasing importance of older workers, "a pensioner group says it is unlikely many people will be in a position to take the leave."

Bob Birrell from the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University realized that the proposal to allow 12 months' unpaid grandparental leave had wider implications: "Because in the past we would have imagined that most grandparents would've had time on their hands, they wouldn't have been working." While Pensioners and Superannuants Association spokesman Paul Versteege says he thinks the policy is well intentioned, but unlikely to make much of an impact, Edwards notes that ANZ Bank chief economist Saul Eslake sees grandparental leave as an important aspect of social policy to encourage older workers into the economy.
Although Australia's labour force participation rate has been rising over the last few years, participation by Australians in the senior age group--that is, above 55--remains well below that in other comparable countries, such as America, Britain, Canada and New Zealand, and substantially below that of Scandinavian countries as well."
Source: ABC News "Grandparents' leave plan gets mixed response" (November 8, 2007)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Arkansas: Census Burerau Issues Profile of the Older Worker

In a continuation of its partnership with 31 states on a series of reports on workers 55 and older, the Census Bureau has released its report on Arkansas, the fifth state to be released in the series. Among the highlights of the report--"The Geographic Distribution and Characteristics of Older Workers in Arkansas: 2004":
  • 14.3% of the workers in 2004 were 55 and older and 3.1% of the workers were 65 and older; and
  • of the 75 counties in Arkansas 20% or more of the workforce in three counties was 55 or older in 2004.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau News Release (November 8, 2007)

Other Sources: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette "No rocking chair just yet for many" (November 25, 2007)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Finding and Keeping Skilled Labor among Mature Workers in Construction Industry

Richard Gilbert, writing in the Journal of Commerce reports that employers in the construction industy are being advised that, if they are having difficulty hiring highly-skilled and experienced staff, they need to pay attention to demographics and to develop strategies to attract, engage and retain mature workers. Barbara Jaworski, founder of the Workplace Institute, spoke at a roundtable discussion hosted by the Applied Science Technologists & Technicians of British Columbia (ASTTBC) and told attendees that “It’s not about being nice to older people. It’s about meeting your organizational needs through the talent, skills and experience of older workers."

In a separate article from Assocated Construction Publications, Steve Hudson of the Dixie Contractor provides the following lists of factors that keep the over-50 set working in construction. First the list of what they worry about:
  • Financial Concerns;
  • Insurance Concerns
  • Not Ready To Retire
Then the list of what they look for:
  • Comfortable Working Conditions
  • Familiar Equipment
  • Reasonable Physical Demands
Thus, for example, Greg Anderson, a supervisor over construction for Southern Land Company, recognizing that "workers over 50 do not want to go out and do physical labor type work," but "want to operate equipment instead," he puts such older workers where they want to be, thus increasing the chances that they will stay on the job.

Sources: Jounral of Commerce "Employers need strategies to attract and retain mature workers" (November 7, 2008); Associated Construction Publications "Retaining the Over-50 Employee: (November 5, 2007)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Australia: Survey Shows Older Workers Not Planning To Retire Soon

News reports on the results of a Nielsen survey suggest that a growing majority of Australians aged over 55 year have no plans to retire. Specifically, the Nielsen Panorama study found 55% of all workers aged 55 to 64 in 2007 had no plans to retire in the short term, up from 43% from just last year. Furthermore, among workers aged 55 to 59 who were planning a retirement, 44% intend to go for semi-retirement, up from only 32% in 2006, with a similar shift among 60 to 64 year olds.
But Philip Taylor, director of Swinburne University's Business, Work and Ageing Centre for Research, said older workers could be staying at work for longer because they had little choice.

"We may be leaving behind the era of early retirement … it may be about the boomers aspiring to work longer, but one should also ask whether these older workers are being forced to work longer," he said. "Because the Government is rolling back the welfare state that might otherwise have supported them, they're being forced back into the labour market."
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald "Boomers ain't ready to quit workforce" (November 1, 2007); The Age "Grey is good, grey is great, grey works" (November 2, 2007)

Friday, November 02, 2007

New Zealand: Workers Over 65 Have Largest Injury Rate

A report from Statistics New Zealand derived from Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) claims shows that workers aged 65 years and over sustained work-related injuries at a rate considerably higher than any other age group. Thus, while those workers aged 65 years and over comprised 2.4% of the workforce, approximately 9,100 (20%) suffered some form of injury at work in 2006. In addition, workers in this age group accounted for 24 of the 81 claims lodged for work-related fatalities.

The report--Injury Statistics--Work-related Claims: 2006--also shows that older workers were over-represented among the more serious injury claims, which were those requiring weekly compensation or rehabilitation payments, at a rate almost three times higher than any other age group, with 45 per 1,000 full-time equivalent workers (FTEs).

Source: Statistics New Zealand Media Release (October 30, 2007)

Age Concern New Zeland calls these statistics "rubbish." "This claim is needlessly alarming older people and employers. The increasing number of seniors participating in the workforce is one of the great success stories of positive ageing, but this could put the fight against ageism in workplaces back by years," says Age Concern National President Jill Williams. He adds: "A greater proportion of older workers work part-time: but they've been rolled together in the stats to make full-time equivalents, and that's then being compared with individual ACC claims."

Source: Age Concern New Zealand Press Release (November 4, 2007)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Safety Engineers Urge Businesses To Design Workplaces for an Aging Workforce

According to the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), businesses should begin designing systems and processes that enable older workers to maximize productivity and minimize potential error rates. To avoid negative economic consequences and "[t]o accommodate the aging workforce and to work to reduce fatality rates, businesses should design a safe workplace for this large aging and valuable workforce," ASSE member Joel Haight, Ph.D, P.E., CSP, CIH, and associate professor of Energy and Mineral Engineering at Penn State University, said.

Dr. Haight was the presenter at a webinar on "Designing for an Aging Workforce" sponsored aby ASSE at which he discussed how physical and cognitive capacity losses affect productivity and injury rates in the aging workforce and the question as to whether designing a work space to accommodate age-related capacity losses in older workers actually help minimize age-induced error rates and increase productivity.

Recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, ASSE members suggested, among other things, the following means for increasing workplace safety for an aging workforce:
  • Improve illumination, add color contrast;
  • Eliminate heavy lifts, elevated work from ladders and long reaches;
  • Design work floors and platforms with smooth and solid decking while still allowing some cushioning;
  • Reduce static standing time;
  • Remove clutter from control panels and computer screens and use large video displays;
  • Reduce noise levels;
  • Utilize hands free volume adjustable telephone equipment;
  • Increase task rotation which will reduce the strain of repetitive motion;
  • Increase the time allowed for making decisions; and
  • Provide opportunities for practice and time to develop task familiarity.
Source: American Society of Safety Engineers News Release (October 30, 2007)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Demographic "Time Bomb" in Wait for Information Technolgy Businesses

Len Rust of the Rust Report draws attention to a recent report by research firm Ovum suggesting that IT shops are facing a demographic time bomb. According to Tom Kucharvy, the author of the report--"North America's IT staffing 'time bomb': managing the demographic shift" (September 2007; available from Ovum):
North American IT shops may well be facing a staffing perfect storm. Two big challenges are certain--a mass retirement of baby boomers that promises to deplete staff and starve many companies of critical skills, and a shortage of replacements due to a smaller crop of college graduates and a dramatic decline in students majoring in and planning to enter IT-related fields.
Rust writes that "As older workers exit, along with them go technological skills, industry and company knowledge, and seasoned judgment, including how to weigh the many factors that go into decision-making." However, a cultural divide will be created as yung people entering the workforce can be expected to embrace future advances without any reserve or difficulty, while "mature workers are unlikely to have the same readiness."

Meanwile, according to the Ovum report:
There are a number of steps that companies can take now to address current requirements and many others that corporations, in partnership with government organizations and educational institutions, must take to pre-empt even greater challenges in the future. The first step, however, is to do something that only a small percentage of US corporations have done--acknowledge the nature and extent of the problem and the need to address it.
Source: Rust Report Age gap strikes IT (October 26, 2007)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Corporations and Universities Helping Train Older Workers for New Careers

Writing in U.S. News and World Report, Kim Clark reports on the rising demographic tide of older students in universities, as a growing number of colleges, charities, companies, and governments are accommodating and encouraging adults who return to the classroom.

Among other things, Clark tells about an IBM prgorma, launched in 2005, that pays older staffers interested in becoming science or math teachers up to $15,000 apiece for tuition and time off for student teaching. This program is now being emulated in California with the establishment of EnCorps, which relies on partners in the commercial sector to recruit, train, and prepare retiring employees to pursue alternate careers as math and science teachers.

While IBM has, more recently, extended its program to pay for training older workers who want to "retire" into other public-service jobs, other employers are focusing more dollars on educating older workers in an effort to keep them from retiring. Thus, for example, Clark writes: "United Technologies Corp. is paying for all tuition and up to three hours off a week for any accredited college class. What's more, older students who get a degree are given a graduation present of $10,000 in utc stock."

Source: U.S. News & World Report "Heading Back to College Universities are doing more than ever to attract older students" (October 26, 2007)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Canada: Alberta Solicits Feedback on Aging Workforce

The Alberta Government has launched a public consultation on aging workforce, giving Albertans a chance to share their feedback on the issues and opportunities related to Alberta’s aging workforce. The consultation runs until December 14 and results will be compiled into a summary report to support the development of future policies.

According the consultation--"Alberta's Aging Workforce", Alberta and British Columbia are both facing labour supply challenges that are expected to intensify in the coming years; in Alberta, workers aged 45 and over account for more than one-third of the workforce. An accompanying discussion document ("Mature Workers in Alberta and British Columbia: Understanding the Issues and Opportunities") includes information from 14 large employer and labour groups plus small and medium-sized businesses in Alberta and B.C. This document is intended to be a resource for employers and policymakers in the public and private sectors, and it provides "a profile of mature workers in Alberta and B.C., factors that influence work decisions, and approaches taken by various stakeholders, governments and countries in response to the labour market challenges of an aging workforce."

Source: Government of Alberta News Release (October 23, 2007)

Other Sources: Edmomton Journal "Reports promotes keeping older workers on job" (October 23, 2007)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Survey: Ernst & Young Suggests Employers Not Ready to Face an Aging Workforce

Ernst & Young has released a follow-up to its 2006 report on the aging workforce. In this new survey--"Aging Workforce Survey: Challenges and Responses--An Ongoing Review", employers in the United States are depicted as remaining unprepared for the looming brain drain stemming from the aging of the “baby boomer” generation, "leaving themselves open to economic and productivity challenges if strategic plans are not put in place over the next five years."

Using response from human resource (HR) executives from Fortune 1000 companies, the survey confirms that a gap in strategy exists across organizations when preparing for and developing programs to meet the demands of this population as it nears retirement. The findings also suggest that employers may be experiencing a disconnect with this demographic in areas such as succession planning and employee benefits programs. For example, 41% say middle management level employees will be most affected by the brain drain; however, of those with formal succession-planning programs in place, 75% are focused on monitoring senior management only.

Among other key findings in the survey:
  • Although 44% say it would be desirable to have senior management stay beyond the normal retirement age, 60% say current programs are “neutral” in terms of encouraging or discouraging retirement at a certain age;
  • only 29% are considering phased retirement programs (with only 9% having such programs in place);
  • 39% agree health care is the main driver in one’s decision to retire, but 54% are considering increasing employee co-pays that which could lead to the loss of talent.
Ernst & Young LLP also hosted a Thought Center Webcast with a panel discussion on the aging workforce and whether Corporate America is prepared to deal with the challenges arising from the impending retirement of the "baby boomer" generation. The webcast will be archived on their website.

Source: Ernst & Young News Release (October 22, 2007)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Health and Safety Professionals Must Address Aging Population’s Needs in the Workplace

At the 95th Annual National Safety Council’s (NSC) 2007 Congress and Expo held in Chicago in October, Dr. Gregory Petty, professor of health and safety programs at the University of Tennessee, led a session on "Special Safety Concerns for an Aging Workforce" to encourage health and safety professionals to take a look at the needs of older workers. According to a report of the session by Laura Water for Occupational Hazards, Petty explained that the phenomenon of so many older employees returning to the workforce after retirement can be attributed to better health, insufficient retirement funds or the desire to gain new experiences. Further, while many business and industry leaders are overlooking the increasingly older workforce, he predicted the expectations of this population’s work ability will change “with the realization that ‘old’ does not have to mean tired, sick, cautious or quiet.” However, hat the benefits of hiring older employees, however, are accompanied by risks.
Older worker face various challenges: the onset of diseases, reduced blood flow, memory problems, medication side effects and the loss of strength, stamina and flexibility. Older workers also may find it more difficult to learn new skills. Their reaction times slow down, their balance is affected and their vision and hearing quality decrease.
Among the suggestions that Petty made are for employers and health and safety professionals to be prepared to make accommodations for their older workers to keep them safe. These could include wellness programs, job analyses, and ergonomic evaluations to protect the aging workforce. He also added that restructured job duties and work hours might be beneficial to this population, as could be providing behavior-based feedback and giving more positive than negative consequences.

Source: Occupational Hazards "NSC: Special Safety Concerns for an Aging Workforce" (October 18, 2007)

Additional Sources: BLR " Managing Safety for the Aging Workforce" (October 23, 2007)

Friday, October 19, 2007

United Kingdom: European Court Decision Seen as Supporting Mandatory Retirement Law

A number of United Kingdom lawyers, reacting to the European Court of Justice decision upholding Spain's manatatory retirement law, believe the decision suggests that a challenge to the UK law will also fail. Thus, for example, a story in Personnel Today quotes Rachel Dineley, employment partner at law firm Beachcroft, as saying:
"While Heyday may persist with its challenge regardless of this development, employers can take comfort from what is clearly a sound and sensible view.

"Conversely, employees who had contemplated challenging their employer's decision to require them to retire on reaching age 65 may reluctantly accept the decision, and recognise that any challenge through the Employment Tribunal is very probably futile."
Similarly, in an article for THe Times, Michael Herman quotes James Baker, a solicitor at Macfarlanes, as saying: “The court has clearly accepted that mandatory retirement ages are discriminatory but that they can be justified as in this case.”

However, in a story in Clickdocs, quotes Juliet Carp, an employment solicitor with Speechly Bircham LLP, as saying:
"At first sight, the ECJ's decision seems likely to disappoint older workers - and delight many employers.

"Although the judges in Palacios made it clear that a wide discretion is offered to member states, it is still possible that the ECJ might not accept the British policy objectives as a legitimate excuse for age discrimination."
In addition, Gordon Lishman, Director General at Age Concern, has announced that, while disappointed that the the Palacios case did not succeed, Age Concern still believes "it is discriminatory for an individual to be made to retire on the grounds of their age and against their will," and that the Court decision will not set back the legal case that Heyday, supported by Age Concern, is bringing to the Court. "There are significant distinctions between the Heyday case and the case of Felix Palacios. The legal advice we are hearing is that Heyday should forge ahead with its case undeterred."

Sources: Personnel Today "European Court of Justice signals UK's mandatory retirement age will survive Heyday challenge" (October 16, 2007); The Times "EU ruling a blow to workers over 65" (October 17, 2007); Clickdocs "Compulsory retirement not prohibited, says ECJ" (October 18, 2007); Age Concern News Release (October 17, 2007)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

European Court of Justice Upholds Mandatory Retirement Legislation

In the case of Palacios v Cortefiel Servicios SA, the European Court of Justice has held that the European Union's Equal Treatment Framework Directive does not prohibit member states from introducing mandatory retirement ages. Following an earlier ruling by an Advocate-General of the ECJ, the Court ruled on a complaint brought by Félix Palacios de la Villa against Cortefiel Servicios SA, in which Mr Palacios claims that his dismissal on the ground that he had attained the compulsory retirement age laid down in a collective agreement was unlawful and that a provision in Spain's discrimination laws which effectively allowed employers to force staff to retire at 65 was incompatible with European law.

In its decision, the Court first stated that national legislation fixing an age for compulsory retirement establishes rules relating to "employment and working conditions, including dismissals and pay" within the meaning of Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000--establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation--and, therefore falls within its scope. Thus, since such legislation directly imposes less favorable treatment for workers who have reached that age as compared with all other persons in the labor force, it cannot pass muster unless there is justification for that difference in treatment.

Turning to the justification in the case of the Spanish legislation, the Court found that it lay in a national policy aiming to promote better access to employment by means of better distribution of work between the generations, even though the legislation did not formally refer to that aim. Furthermore, the court found that the legitimacy of such an aim could not reasonably be called into question, since the promotion of a high level of employment constitutes one of the ends pursued both by the European Union and the European Community.

The Court stopped short of authorizing any such legislation. While member states and enjoy broad discretion in their choice, the national measures may not go beyond what is "appropriate and necessary" to achieve the aim concerned. Thus, the Court found it not unreasonable for a member state to take the view that compulsory retirement, because the worker has reached the age-limit provided for, may be appropriate and necessary in order to achieve a legitimate aim in the context of national employment policy consisting in promoting full employment by facilitating access to the labour market. Furthermore, the Spanish legislation was not based only on a specific age, but also took account of the fact that the persons concerned were entitled to financial compensation by way of a retirement pension at the end of their working life, the level of which cannot be regarded as unreasonable.

Source: European Court of Justice News Release (October 16, 2007)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Indiana: Census Bureau Releases Profile of Older Workers

In a continuation of its partnership with 31 states on a series of reports on workers 55 and older, the Census Bureau has released its report on Indiana, the fourth state to be released in the series. Among the highlights of the report--"The Geographic Distribution and Characteristics of Older Workers in Indiana: 2004":
  • of the 92 counties in Indiana, one county--Ohio County--had 20% total 55 or older;
  • statewide, 14.4% of workers were 55 and older;
  • 90 counties experienced an increase from 2001 to 2004 in the percentage of the county workforce that was 55 and older;
  • among industry sectors that employed 100 or more workers 55 and older, educational services had the highest proportion of workers in this age group.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau News Release (October 15, 2007)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Netherlands: Focus on Age Discrimination

According to an article in Expatica, age discrimination is increasingly prevalent, and less talked about in the Netherlands than other forms of discrimination.
Of the 694 complaints of discrimination submitted to the Dutch Committee for Equal Treatment (CGB) in 2006, 219 dealt exclusively with discrimination on the basis of age.
Older employees tend to be less likely to be promoted or invited for job interviews, even when their resume are similar or better to younger candidates, according to a recent CGB report.

In addition, companies that are forced to reorganise usually prefer to fire older employees first. Older employees are also the least likely to be offered outplacement programmes that help make a quick transfer to a different company.
While laws may help the older workers who do file complaints, some insiders say only economic need will end age discrimination; as the baby boomers retire, the larger work force requirements can only be realized if companies decide to retain their senior professionals.

Source: "'Older' workers in Holland facing age discrimination" (October 12, 2007)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Canada: Federal-Provincial Partnerships To Help Retrain Unemployed Older Workers

The Canadian Deparemtn of Economic Development and British Columbia signed the Canada-British Columbia Agreement on the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers (TIOW). This agreement will allow British Columbia communities to design and deliver projects and services that will help unemployed older workers retrain for new careers. It is anticipated that these community-based projects will help at least 1,200 workers in British Columbia to upgrade their skills, benefit from job counseling, and gain work experience.

Similarly, the Governments of Quebec and Canada will jointly contribute $568,000 to facilitate the reintegration into employment of older workers in the Centre-du-Québec region who have been affected by plant closures or downsizing, particularly in the furniture and clothing industries. According to the estimates of Emploi-Québec, which manages the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers, this amount will help to reintegrate 72 older works into employment over the next few months.

Source: Government of Canada News Release (October 11, 2007); News Release (October 11, 2007)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

United Kingdom: Government Seeks Feedback on Flexible Retirement

The United Kingdom's Department for Work and Pensions has issued a consultation, seeking views on key issues raised by industry since the implementation the pension provision of the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations in December 2006, particular application of the regulations in relation to flexible retirement and pension provision. The Department believes that there is still confusion as to whether the age rules can allow more flexible retirement.

The issue is especially important, since the government considers flexible retirement key to meeting the challenges of an ageing population by providing choices and opportunities for older people to plan how they want to stop working. "Increasing the incentives to work for longer will give individuals the opportunity to plan for a longer working life and save towards a more financially secure retirement." However, because of the age rules, "[e]mployers and the pensions industry may be reluctant to implement change without case law and therefore are cautious in proposing modifications to a scheme which could be considered discriminatory or which cannot be objectively justified if challenged."

Thus, in the consulation, the Department seeks responses to, among other questions:
Q1. We would welcome your views on what you believe might constitute direct or indirect age discrimination in relation to flexible retirement.

Q2. It would also be helpful if you could indicate practices which you believe should be exempt or which could be objectively justified.
Source: Department for Work and Pensions "Flexible Retirement & Pension Provision" Consultation Document (October 10, 2007)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Ireland: Report Calls for Abolition of Mandatory Retirement

A call for an end to mandatory retirement was one of the key recommendations of the Senior Select Retain & Retrain partnership as part of its final report--"More than just a Number, Older workers in Ireland." “The impact which compulsory retirement has on people cannot be underestimated,” Age Action chief executive Robin Webster said that “[c]ompulsory retirement ages, whether in the public service or not, should be removed. It would not only give workers who wish to continue working the option to do so, but would also enable employers retain some of their most experienced and valuable staff.”

The partnership consists of Age Action, FAS, ICTU, PARTAS and Contact Recruitment, and was funded by the EU Equal Community Initiative. Other recommendations of the final report include:
  • Those who are made redundant or leave the workforce should be provided with the information they need to help them make this transition;
  • In facilitating diversity in the workplace, it is essential that in-company age awareness training become a routine part of good HR practice, also leading to an improvement in inter-generational communications within companies;
  • Older workers need to be assisted in knowing how to sell their experiences and validate their competencies, regardless of formal qualifications;
  • employers need to examine work practices and make flexible work arrangements available, inclduing part-time work;
  • older workers should benefit equally from access to training and courses should be more geared towards their personal and professional development;
  • there is a need for a one-stop shop for employment services for older people.
According to the Minister of Enterprise, Trade & Employment, the recommendations bear serious consideration by policy-makers, practitioners and decision-makers: "Dissemination of the findings of the project’s work and of the lessons learned will be invaluable both in the policy making process and in generating public awareness generally of the issues involved."

Sources: Age Action Ireland "Time has come to abolish the mandatory retirement age" (October 4, 2007); The Irish Times "Call for end to mandatory retirement age" (October 4, 2007); Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment Address by Minister Michael Martin at the “Experience has a Future” Conference (October 4, 2007)

Additional Resources: Senior Select Retain and Retrain "Older Workers & Employment Agencies in Ireland" (September 2007)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

U.S. Labor Department Funds Pilot Projects To Help Older Workers Gain and Maintain Employment

The U.S. Department of Labor awarded four organizations more than $3.1 million to support pilot programs designed to benefit older workers. Grantees will partner with local entities, including One-Stop Career Centers, employers, community colleges and other educational institutions, to provide older workers with skills-based job training. Certain programs also will allow participants to earn wages while learning a new career and/or provide both older workers and employers with information and skills training designed to foster productive relationships between the two groups.

Source: Department of Labor News Release (October 1, 2007)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Survey: Older UK Workers Less Likely To Take Sick Leave When They Do Not Need To

Research from Unum suggests that older workers in the United Kingdom demonstrate greater integrity than their younger colleagues when it comes to taking days of work sick when they don’t really need to. Specifically, 99% of 56 to 64 year old workers in full-time employment had not taken a single day off sick when they hadn’t really needed to in the past 12 months, while 25% of 16 to 24 year old and 17% of 25 to 34 year old workers had taken at least one day.

With respect to days taken off for genuine illness, Unum’s research revealed that older people take slightly more days off work than their younger colleagues: on average, 16 to 34 years old workers took approximately four days off a year while 45 to 54 year old workers took around seven and a half days. However, 55 to 64 year old workers took just under seven days.
Commenting on the findings from a medical point of view, Unum’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael O’Donnell, said:
Occupational Health professionals have long believed that short-term absence is less frequent in older workers. This research confirms that the reason for this is that they are less likely to take time off for trivial or spurious reasons.
Source: Unum Limited News Release (October 1, 2007)

Other Sources: Health Insurance & Protection "Older workers 'take less sickies'" (October 1, 2007)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Wales: Report Issued on Importance of Older Workers To Boost Economy

As reported by Aled Blake of the Western Mail, a report issued by the Wales Management Council and Age Concern Cymru shows that more people working past the official retirement age would boost the economy in Wales. The report calls on more to follow the lead of business leaders who continue to work despite their age and warns that employers need to shed negative attitudes towards these workers if they are to capitalise on this reservoir of talent

Among other things, the report--"Older Workers in Wales"--also calls for :
  • the abolition of the offical retirement age;
  • training for bosses in how to help staff members to make better choices about retirement;
  • the introduction of continental style phased retirement, which avoid an abrupt and “often psychologically damaging” end to a person’s working life;
  • setting aside public funds to help older workers adapt their skills, with grants to help older workers in their search for suitable alternative jobs; and
  • employers to change their attitudes to flexible and part-time work, while at government level, there should be changes to the state pension regulations to avoid penalising those who stay on in work past the traditional retirement age.
Source: Wesern Mail "Older workers ‘can help economy'" (September 28, 2007)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Korea: Report on Coming Skills Shortages in Manufacturing Advises Industries To Make Better Use of Older Workers

According to a an article in The Hankyoreh, the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade (KIET) has announced findings on employment policies for aging workers in South Korea’s leading companies in manufacturing industry including steel, shipbuilding and automobile suggesting that with the workforce of the nation’s manufacturing industry rapidly aging, South Korea will soon be faced with a vacuum in the manufacturing industry similar to the one experienced by Japan when that nation’s baby boom generation retired en masse.

For example, at one steel company, as sales have increased for the past three years, the amount of employees has decreased 9.7% and in the process, the average age of employees has risen to 42.1 from 40.1. At a shipbuilder, the number of department managers rose almost 10 times from 1985 to 2005, but the number of deputy managers has been cut in half, but out of the total number of the company’s manufacturing employees, the ratio of those in their 50s has increased from 16.7% in 1999 to 31.6% in 2006.
[Choi Hee-seon of the KIET] advised industries to introduce a peak salary system, in which older workers would not be forced to retire as they are now, and would be given the option of continuing to be employed with a salary decrease that inversely corresponds to their increasing age. The current system forces retirement at age 58 and offers workers an increasing salary that directly corresponds to increases in age until retirement. Choi says that using the peak salary system would allow companies to make better use of older workers. He also advised improving the work process in order to increase the productivity of middle-aged and elderly workers.
Source: The Hankyoreh "As society ages, S. Korea could face vacuum in manufacturing" (September 21, 2007)

Survey: Younger and Older Workers Appreciate Diversity of Age in the Workplace

A survey of older and younger employees in the United Kingdom shows that working in a mixed aged workforce is important for both older (66%) and younger (65%) workers with all recognizing the benefits of working with people of mixed ages. In the study commissioned by Jobcentre Plus, part of the Department for Work and Pensions, 40% of older workers believe their younger colleagues teach them skills they previously did not have, while one third of younger workers believe older workers are more likely to work anti-social hours than colleagues their own age.
Lesley Strathie, Chief Executive, Jobcentre Plus commented: "The research shows that having the right balance of age and skills can bring numerous benefits to establishing a complete workforce for both employers and employees. Both older and younger workers appreciate and learn from the qualities each brings to the workplace."
Among other findings in the study:
  • Younger workers think their older colleagues bring experience (94%), reliability (66%), and understanding (63%);
  • two thirds of older workers are impressed by their younger co-workers ability to learn quickly, be flexible (61%), and give them energy (51%); and
  • Younger workers stated that their older colleagues were more likely to be left in charge (60%), while over half of older workers believe their younger colleagues to be more likely to take risks, with 16% commenting that they are also more likely to be given manual tasks.
Source: JobCentre Plus News Release (Sepbember 26, 2007

Related Stories: Globe and Mail "Young, old and in-between: an we all get along?" by Jim Grey September 28, 2007 "Younger boss, older worker: Cooperation, communication can overcome age differences" by Karl W. Ritzler September 28, 2007

United Kingdom: Extensive Research Study Highlights Employers' Approach to Older Workers

A qualitative study looking at how United Kingdom employers are responding to an ageing workforce carried out by the Centre for Research into the Older Workforce (CROW) and published by the Department of Work and Pensions suggests that most employers say they have positive attitudes to older workers, although they are more reluctant to recruit the over-50s and training seems to tail off for this group. Many employers claim to prefer older workers to younger ones, because of their attitudes to work and their experience. Small firms were particularly likely to keep older people on after State Pension Age.

The study--"Employer Responses to an Ageing Workforce"--was authored by Professor Stephen McNair, Director of CROW, Matt Flynn and Nina Dutton and is based on in-depth interviews with either a senior human resource (HR) manager or a general manager at one of 70 firms, across nine occupational sectors, with a wide geographical spread. According to the summary introduction to this 188-page report:
This study has found that awareness of the Age Regulations is high among employers and that, in general, most are sympathetic to avoiding age discrimination in the workplace, although many do not make the connection between this and business needs, partly perhaps because they are unaware of long term demographic trends. Attitudes towards 'older' workers were generally positive, while young people were viewed more negatively and rarely seen as victims of age discrimination. There was a good deal of change in HR practices generally, but rarely as a sole result of the Regulations. Positive practices on retention of existing workers were much more common than active policies on recruitment. Employers were most likely to be anxious about the implementation of the new provisions on retirement, and the management challenges which this might present. In this area defensive responses appeared sometimes to be having the opposite effect to that intended by Government. The attempt to minimise risk and workloads for managers was a common theme. Within the limitations of the sample interviewed, there was no evidence of regional variation in employer behaviour.
Source: Department for Work and Pensions Research Report No 455--"Employer responses to an ageing workforce: a qualitative study" (September 27, 2007)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

AARP Announces 2007 Best Employers for Workers Over 50

In introducing its picks for the 2007 AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50, AARP highlighted the number of major multi-national corporations demonstrating that enlightened policies toward 50+ employees make good business sense. Thus, for its top position, AARP named SC Johnson, a company based in Racine, Wisconsin, with operations in more than 70 countries, which, among other forward-looking practices, offers a range of flexible work arrangements that enable workers to balance their professional and personal lives--including an on-site medical center and various wellness, fitness and recreation programs; an on-site education program that provides lifelong learning and college credits; and paid sabbaticals to experienced employees.

Announcing that selection, along with the Principal Financial Group, its 9th selection, and Michelin North Americam, its 44th, AARP CEO Bill Novelli said that "[i]nternational companies that take a world class approach in their policies toward 50 and over workers understand that the result is more productive employees."

AARP alsp announced the winners of its annual Bernard E. Nash Awards for Innovation. Chosen from all applicants for the Best Employers honor, AARP singled out Mercy Health System of Janesville, Wisconsin, for flexible work options; Intuitive Research and Technology Corporation of Huntsville, Alabama, for retiree work opportunities; and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association of Chicago, Illinois, for training and development opportunities.

Source: AARP News Release (September 25, 2007)

Survey: Talent Gap Widens as Workforce Ages in G7 Countries

According to a study conducted by Towers-Perrin on behalf of AARP, as the number of workers reaching traditional retirement years increase in the G7 countries, the marketplace is experiencing a decline in the number of skilled younger workers available to fill in the ranks of those retiring. Thus, suggests AARP, employers must end age discrimination in the workplace if countries and employers are to be best positioned to thrive in the global economy tomorrow.

The study--International Profit from Experience--was released in advance of a conference on the same sponsored by AARP, in partnership with the European Commission, the Business Council for the United Nations and Nikkei. Among the survey's key findings:
  • Age discrimination is the single largest barrier for those 50+ who want to continue working past their anticipated retirement age, with at least 60% of employees 50+ in each G7 country viewing age discrimination as the primary barrier to securing new jobs;
  • Older workers in the G7 countries want to continue to work on average an additional 5 years;
  • Surges of immigration and productivity that might offset the anticipated decline in skilled workers are unlikely to occur; and
  • Allowing employees to continue working past their traditional retirement age will not only allow older workers to remain in their careers and stay active, but will have a positive impact on an employer’s bottom line.
Line Vreven, Director of AARP International, says that “While the survey clearly identifies the talent gaps emerging within G7 countries, the responses by employers do not sufficiently address this challenge.” In addition, those "nations working to actively retain older workers and are providing incentives, rather than deterrents, to their continued employment, will reap economic gain in the long-run.”

An executive summary of the full 124-page report is also available.

Source: AARP Press Release (September 25, 2007)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Census Bureau Releases Profile of Older Workers in Vermont

The Census Bureau, under the federal-state Local Employment Dynamics (LED) partnership, has launched a series of reports on workers 55 and older for more than 30 states. Vermont is the third state to be released, to be followed by Indiana, Arkansas and Hawaii. The Vermont report is available online.

Source: Census Bureau What's New (September 20, 2007)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

United States: Census Figures Show More Older Workers

According to the American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, nationally, 23.2% of people between the ages of 65 and 74 were in the labor force (either working or looking for work) in 2006--an increase from 19.6% in 2000.

On a regional basis, states with some of the lowest rates of older workers in the labor force included West Virginia (15.7%), Michigan (18.8%) and Arizona (19.4%), while some of the highest rates were found in South Dakota, Nebraska and Washington, D.C., all with about one-third of people in this age group in the labor force.

Among the 20 largest metro areas, Washington, D.C., had the highest percentage of people in the labor force in this age group (31.8%), followed by Boston (28.1%), Dallas-Fort Worth (27.9%), Minneapolis-St. Paul (27.4%), and Houston (26.5%).

Source: U.S. Census Bureau News Release (September 12, 2007)

Related Stories: Minneapolis Star-Tribune "Census: Retirement age doesn't mean 65" (September 12, 2007); Washington Post "Area Leads Nation in Putting Off Retirement" (September 12, 2007)

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Retirement Decisions of Two-Career Couples

Marilyn Gardner, a staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor presented a new angle on employee retirement decisions: what should dual career couples do? Overall, from a financial viewpoint, she writes that experts suggest that a staggered retirement works best. This works from the financial perspective, where leaving the workforce at different times may give one spouse time to earn more and serves as a hedge against uncertain financial markets or provide health insurance for a retired partner who is not yet 65 and thus eligible for Medicare. However, finances are not the whole story:
Couples stagger retirements for other reasons as well. "Typically the wife is a little younger and took time out for raising children," says Ronald Manheimer, executive director of the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement in Asheville. "She came back into the workforce and is short of achieving full pension capability or is enjoying her level of accomplishment. She's not willing to give it up yet."
Source: Christian Science Monitor "Dual-career couples: Who retires when?" (September 9, 2007)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Survey Shows Flexibility of Older Workers, Openness to New Tasks

Research conducted in the United Kingdom by Talent Q, shows that older workers can often be the most flexible--that as people get older they become increasingly willing to take on new tasks and more varied roles. The research, based on in-depth analysis of over 5,700 workers, challenges the common preconception that older workers are unwilling to accommodate change and that they may be unresponsive to new challenges presented in the workplace.

In other findings, the study showed that older workers are happy to work on their own and take a leading role without the need for much guidance, and that they demonstrate a high level of ability in building successful working relationships with colleagues, clients and suppliers. "While it was shown that workers in their fifties and sixties are much less ambitious than their younger colleagues, this is probably just an indication that they have already achieved their goals or have decided that they are happy with their lot in life."
Steve O’Dell, chief executive of Talent Q, said: “Older people in the workplace might sometimes be viewed as being stuck in their ways and a little less sharp. Our research gives a very different perspective.

“Talent Q found that older workers are less preoccupied about climbing the career ladder and that they tend to be happy, fulfilled and confident. As a result, they are glad to take on new work or projects, and aren’t unduly phased by lots of changes. They tend to plough on regardless--a fact that employers are quickly discovering can be a real benefit to their business."
Source: Taent Q Age Research (September 5, 2007)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Survey: Ageism Isn't Only About Old People

According to a online poll sponsored by Age Lessons (conducted online by Harris Interactive, plus follow-up interviews by Age Lessons), younger workers [36% of 18-34 year olds] are more likely to say they experienced age discrimination than older, 35+ workers [24%]. Significantly, 93% of respondents said they had “witnessed or experienced” ageism and were hesitant to report it for reasons including a perceived inability to change the status quo, fear of being labeled a problem or getting targeted for future layoffs.
“Ageism isn't about old people, it's about all people. To avoid a ‘war of the ages' in the workplace, companies need to address generational diversity across the age spectrum and develop strategies for leveraging the richness and value-add of a diverse workforce,” noted Laurel Kennedy, Age Lessons president.
Among other findings, younger workers told interviewers that older workers seemed to be “kicked to the curb” at a disproportionately high rate during layoffs. This led them to wonder out loud about how loyalty was being repaid by employers.

Source: Age Lessons Press Release (September 5, 2007)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Economic Analysis by Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Suggests Older Workers Face Reduced Wages

A working paper issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston provides strong empirical support for this hypothesis that the increasing relative supply of older workers would lower the wage premium paid for older, more experienced workers.

One consequence of demographic change is substantial shifts in the age distribution of the working age population. As the baby boom generation ages, the usual historical pattern of there being a high ratio of younger workers relative to older workers is increasingly being replaced by a pattern of there being roughly equal percentages of workers of different ages.

According to "Population Aging, Labor Demand, and the Structure of Wages" by Margarita Sapozhnikov and Robert K. Triest, econometric estimates imply that the size of one’s birth cohort affects wages throughout one’s working life, with members of relatively large cohorts (at all stages of their careers) earning a significantly lower wage than members of smaller cohorts. The cohort size effect is of approximately the same magnitude for men and for women. Their results suggest that cohort size effects are quantitatively important and should be incorporated into public policy analyses.
These results imply that older workers will face increasingly unfavorable relative labor market conditions as their ranks become crowded by the baby boom generation in the near future. Although the slowing of labor force growth may create tight labor markets, the pecuniary benefits of labor market tightness will disproportionately accrue to younger, less experienced workers. Loss of defined benefit pensions and increases in Social Security’s normal retirement age may result in baby boomers retiring at older ages than did the birth cohorts that immediately preceded them, but the boomers will suffer from the same cohort crowding effects on wages, as they consider retirement that they did earlier in their careers.
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Working Paper No. 07-08 (Abstract) (August 27, 2007)

Survey: AARP Finds Many Michigan Members Working Past Traditional Retirement Age

A mail survey of 3,000 Michigan AARP members age 50 to 62 finds that retiring comfortably at age 62 is not a reality for many of them who expect to work well past the traditional retirement age due to increased longevity and rising health care costs. In the research report written by Erica L. Dinger, J.D., AARP Knowledge Management--"What Retirement? Working and Learning for AARP Members in Michigan", of the 832 members currently working or looking for work:
  • 36% work full-time and 9% part-time;
  • 49% consider it extremely (27%) or very (22%) likely that they will continue working beyond retirement;
  • 54% say health insurance coverage is a major factor in their decision to continue working, while 45% enjoy working, 44% need extra income, and 41% need income to pay for prescription drugs;
  • 37% intend to work at their current jobs as long as possible;
  • 23% think they will retire at age 60-64 and 37% at 65-69; 20% estimate retiring at age 70 or older.
Source: AARP Policy & Research (September 2007)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Australia: ACT Chief Minister Exploring Grandparental Leave

As part of an effort to examine measures to attract and retain mature workers, Austrialian Capital Territory (ACT) Chief Minister Jon Stanhope has asked the ACT Commissioner for Public Administration to examine the possibility of granting public servants unpaid leave to enable grandparents to look after grandchildren up to the age of two.
Mr Stanhope said that 2005 figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that grandparents were delivering childcare services to more than 660,000 Australian children. Grandparents cared for more than half of the one-year-olds who depended on child care and almost 40% of five-year-olds.

Almost all of the childcare undertaken by grandparents was provided at no cost.

“Our ageing workforce, and our need to retain older workers for longer, means that over time we will need to provide working conditions that better suit mature-age workers,” Mr Stanhope said.
Source: ACT Chief Minister Media Release (August 27, 2007)

Other Sources: ABC News "ACT plans grandparental leave" (August 27, 2007)