Following her presentation to BITC this week, Amanda Harrison, HR Director, shares how we are supporting our working carers as part of our response to Britain's ageing workforce.
Working in later life can be challenging but I’m pleased to say that we’re leading the way on creating a better future for older workers. Earlier this year, we were recognised for the progressive role we play in providing opportunities and support to older workers by Business in the Community’s (BITC’s) Championing an Ageing Workforce National Award. This week, I was pleased to share our winning approach with BITC’s Age at Work Leadership Team, chaired by Andy Briggs, CEO of Aviva UK and Ireland. The Team aims to overcome issues facing older workers - it was a great experience and one I wanted to share with you too.
But you may first ask; why is it so important?
It’s important because Britain’s population is ageing which means we have a growing portion of older workers and by 2022, the number of people aged between 50 and the State Pension age, will rise to nearly 14m. This presents challenges but also opportunities. That is why we’re developing a long-term strategy for recruiting and retaining older workers. In doing so, we can provide them with a more enriching working life while utilising their expertise to make a valuable contribution to the growth of our business and wider economy.
At the event, I talked about the importance of identifying barriers to working in later life and developing policies and practices that enable an age diverse workplace to thrive. We found that in the UK, key factors influencing people to leave employment before the retirement age was unsurprisingly the impact of caring responsibilities alongside a lack of flexibility and poor health. For example, 3m people in the UK combine work with caring responsibilities so it’s very important that as a responsible employer, we support each other to enable a proper balance between work and caring responsibilities.
And I’m proud that we’re tackling these issues head-on.
We are one of a very few large companies who make it easier to combine work with caring responsibilities by offering paid leave to carers alongside support through our 1,000-stong Employee Carers Network. Caring responsibilities have in particular proved a barrier to older women getting back into work and very soon, I look forward to launching the first ever cross-company returning professional internship with partners, Mars and Vodafone.
We also have flexible working and phased retirement which enables people to reduce or change their work hours, rather than being forced into retirement. Meanwhile, our health and wellbeing policies take into account older workers’ needs, enabling them to seek tailored expert advice from health professionals or via our 24/7 Employee Assistance helpline.
Furthermore, we embrace the value of intergenerational learning and provide new opportunities to develop skills whatever your age. Upper age limits from apprenticeships and graduate programmes have been removed while we encourage the transfer of knowledge to the next generation through mentoring, ensuring we’ve a strong talent pipeline.
This is all part of being a good employer. Sadly however, many people in our society still face unfair working practices and age discrimination. But this isn’t just a business issue, it’s symptomatic of wider issues in society too so while we can’t solve these problems on our own, we will continue to do what we can to make it better for our people and stimulate change by sharing our insights and approach with others. For example, you can catch us presenting on these issues at the main party political conferences in the coming weeks.
Want to know more about how we are creating a great place to work? Read our stories
 Report to Government by Dr Ros Altmann CBE, A New Vision for Older Workers: Retain, Retrain, Recruit, 2015.
 Research by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research calculates that if people worked an extra three years, Britain’s Gross National Domestic Product would rise by 3.25% per year by 2033 based on 2014 values which is equivalent to an extra £55bn.