Employing and supporting older workers

Retain and retrain older workers


As an employer, you should take action to create a working environment that enables workers to develop and fulfil their potential and encourages them to stay. Recruiting and training new staff can be costly. Also, valuable skills and experience may be lost when an employee leaves so you should make every effort to retain staff.

Retain and transfer key skills

You should plan effectively for an ageing workforce. Consider carrying out an age and skills audit to ensure you are making the most of staff knowledge and skills. This planning will help you identify your skills needs when there are future staff changes.

You should focus on how you facilitate the transfer of knowledge to younger staff, for example, through mentoring or getting older workers involved in planning and leading training and development programmes.

Retain existing workers

By providing workplace flexibility, you are considering the needs of all your workers.

Employers should consider the introduction of age-friendly workplace policies in areas that affect older workers, such as:

Flexible working

This can help to accommodate caring responsibilities, health considerations or changing the nature of a job role to lessen its physical demands. See flexible working: the law and best practice.

Phased retirement

See retirement ages and procedures.

Family care leave

See parental leave and time off for dependants.

Career gap breaks

Offer career breaks for staff so that they can deal with family responsibilities or pursue other interests with the security of returning to their job after a certain period of time.

Health and wellbeing

You could look at ways in which you promote healthy ageing in the workplace. For example, you could introduce fitness programmes at lunchtime or awareness sessions around healthy eating. See staff health and wellbeing.

Alumni programmes

Rather than lose contact with workers when they leave your employment you could look at creating an alumni programme that enables you to get insight into your business's successes and failures. You can also turn former employees into engaged brand ambassadors that can help promote your business as an ideal place to work.

Staff training and retraining

Retraining existing staff can be a cost-effective way of developing your existing talent pool and accessing new skills that your business requires. Staff retraining can also help reduce staff turnover as workers undergoing training will feel more valued, confident and motivated to do their job.

Age must not be a barrier to training opportunities - no one is ever too old to learn new skills. Older workers tend to be loyal and are less likely to change jobs frequently, so your business is likely to see the benefits of investing in training before the employee retires.

It is best practice for employers to discuss with their employees, regardless of age, their future aims and goals. This will help plan training and development needs. You should document any personal development discussion, hold the record for as long as there is a business need and provide a copy to the employee. See training your staff.

Age-Friendly Employer Pledge

As an employer, you can show you recognise the importance and value of older workers by committing to the Age-Friendly Employer Pledge. This initiative, run by the Centre for Ageing Better, outlines your commitment to promoting an age-friendly workplace through a number of actions.

Read further details on the Age-Friendly Employer Pledge.