Employing and supporting older workers

Ageing workforce: challenges for staff and employers


The steps for effectively managing older workers are the same as for staff of any age. However, there are some issues that affect older workers in particular. It is important to understand these challenges that older employees might face and take steps to support them.

Challenges for older workers

Challenges for older workers can include:

Age discrimination

There are often stereotypes of older workers being less agile, technophobic, more prone to sickness absence, and resistant to change. Read how to avoid age discrimination.

Part-time or flexible working requirements

Part-time work and the demand for flexible working are more common among older workers than among younger age groups. Ensure the equal promotion of flexible working to all staff. Develop clear procedures and criteria for how to apply for flexible working.

See flexible working for over 50s - a toolkit for employers (PDF, 3.63MB).

Physical or mental challenges of job roles

Employers must make reasonable adjustments to ensure workers with disabilities, such as physical or mental health conditions, aren't substantially disadvantaged when doing their jobs. See improve access and use of facilities for disabled employees and managing and supporting employees with mental ill health.


Promoting staff wellbeing and healthier lifestyles can also help reduce staff absences through sickness. Employers should address this by asking workers if there is anything they can do to support them, so they are happier in the workplace and absences are minimised.

Caring responsibilities

Older workers often have caring responsibilities eg for elderly parents. This can cause stress and worry about the health and wellbeing of a close relative. The worker may also need to take time off work to help care for a relative eg to take an elderly parent to the hospital appointment. Employees with elder care responsibilities should be offered the same flexibility as those with childcare responsibilities are given.

Retirement age

The statutory default retirement age has been abolished so most people can now work for as long as they want to. If an employee chooses to work longer, they can't be discriminated against unlawfully on the grounds of age. Employers should support staff with planning their future career development goals and the transition from employment to retirement when an employee decides to retire. See training your staff and providing support for a retiring employee.

Older women and the menopause

Health issues affect all workers, but some can be overlooked by employers. While many women may go through menopause with relatively little discomfort, many others report a range of symptoms such as hot flushes, irritability, sleep disturbances, fatigue, depression, impaired memory, and anxiety. Menopause awareness amongst managers and the option of flexible working may help female staff. See menopause in the workplace: employer guidance.