Sunday, March 11, 2012

United Kingdom: Report Examines Older Employee Health in Light of Elimination of Default Retirement Age

UNISON has issued a report with analysis of the English Longitudinal Survey of Ageing (ELSA), carried out for it by the NatCen Social Research, challenging the common sense view of politicians that as life expectancy is increasing we all need to work longer before we retire with "the fact that when we are older we are more likely to experience health-related issues that make it unlikely that we will be able to work to the same level as earlier in our careers." According to "Older Workers Briefing Report: Secondary analysis of ELSA," recognizing and responding to these issues will be an important consideration for both employees and employers.

Among other things, the report highlights that, of people aged 60-65, 32% have a longstanding health issue that limits their activities, 28% have a self-reported health issue that limits their work, 28% are often in severe or
moderate pain, and 51% report some kind of mobility difficulty. Looking at employees at those age, the report highlights that they are concentrated in jobs where they are mostly sitting or standing, they have a lower incidence
of limiting health issues compared with 60-65 year olds generally, and one-third reported that their employer had changed their job in some way or that they would like it to change.

Thus, the report suggests employment practices will come under scrutiny for their role in dealing fairly with capability issues and facilitating continued employment. For example:
[S]ome older workers find the mental and/or physical demands of their job difficult and points to a desire among some for greater flexible working in the form of part-time hours, job sharing, flexi-time and home working. Increasing the availability of such arrangements may indeed be one way in which employers and employees can negotiate some of the challenges that working into old age is likely to pose.
However, Dave Prentis, UNISON's General Secretary, believes that just better practices are not enough: "We need longer-term solutions that guarantee protections and support for all older workers, and recognise health inequalities that mean many who work longer will find work harder and then have fewer years left to them when they retire."

Source: NatCen Social Research Blog Posting (March 8, 2012)

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