UK manufacturers embrace older workers

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Britain’s manufacturers are adopting an increasingly positive attitude towards employing older workers in order to address the challenges posed by continued skills shortages and an ageing population.

A report published today (21 April) by the manufacturers’ organisation EEF, suggests that contrary to the popular view, manufacturers believe older workers to be a valuable part of their workforce, more productive and less likely to be absent than their younger counterparts. The report ‘An Ageing Workforce – How are manufacturers preparing?’ shows that the more physical nature of manufacturing employment is also felt to be no impediment to the employment of older workers. Commenting on the research, EEF chairman, Martin Temple (pictured), said that at a time when skills were at such a premium, the experience and technical abilities of older workers were regarded as invaluable. “If employers are prepared to adapt their working practices and adopt a positive approach to rehabilitation there is no reason to believe that the skills of older employees cannot continue to be fully utilised,” he added. The importance of the skills and experience older workers possess is illustrated by the fact that ‘loss of specialist skills’ was cited by over three quarters of companies as a concern, with 60 per cent describing it as significant. This was more than twice the level of the next concern, ‘loss of workforce due to retirement’. The survey also showed that older workers were not just valued for their skills alone but also their levels of productivity. Over 50% of companies thought there was no difference in productivity between older and younger workers and just over a third said that older workers were more productive than their younger counterparts. Nearly 60% of employers also believed older workers get the same benefit from training and only 9% thought that older workers were more likely to be absent from work. To facilitate the increased employment of older workers, manufacturing companies are also adopting pro-active approaches towards the use of flexible working and managing rehabilitation. By far the most common practices are rehabilitation and return to work policies with these being standard in 58% of companies, a proportion rising to over 80% of firms employing 250 people or more. Flexible working hours are already standard in nearly two fifths of companies with half of companies employing 100 or more people having flexible working in place. A further 20% are considering their implementation. Temple concluded: “Given the government’s emphasis on rehabilitation and flexible working, it is encouraging that manufacturing employers are adopting a more pro-active and positive approach than many other sectors in managing the needs of their workforce.” ‘An Ageing Workforce – How are manufacturers preparing’ is available from