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UK must start planning for ageing workforce

By DPF Admin3rd July 2015August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Latest News, Northern Updates, Southern Updates

A leading academic who has been appointed to HSE’s new workplace health expert committee has warned that the UK has made virtually no provision for a future workforce in which a growing number will be made up of ageing workers.

Professor Peter Buckle, research professor at the Royal College of Art in the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, was commissioned by the government in December to carry out an evidence review into workplace infrastructure and how changes can enable workers nearing the traditional retirement age to successfully remain at work longer.

Part of the government’s wider Foresight review, Professor Buckle’s research looked at what the UK’s workforce would look like in 2025 and 2040 and provides a steer for organisations so that they can start planning effectively for the future and retain the skills and knowledge of a growing ageing workforce.

“Not only do we have an ageing workforce but we have workers who will now be required to work beyond the age of 65, the traditional pension age because they won’t be receiving their pension,” he told SHP in an exclusive interview to be featured in next month’s issue.

“At the moment, no one quite knows what the upper ceiling will eventually be… It’s an interesting challenge for the workers and for those that employ them.”

Professor Buckle’s Workplace Infrastructure report, which was published on 15 June, identifies a number of significant barriers that ageing workers face across a diverse range of workplaces, business sectors and organisational structures.

One of the headline findings is that the physical and psychological work demands on older workers frequently exacerbate existing conditions or lead to ill health.

“If we find that the impact on forcing people to work past 65 is that a lot of them get ill and sick, then actually we pick up that cost in other ways,” he warned.

“You may cut back on pension but your social care and health costs go through the roof. We have to be smarter than that.”

Professor Buckle added that if work was appropriate and well designed, it could be beneficial to older people’s health.

“We’ve got that trade off,” he said. “The question is how do we make work and workplaces attractive and appropriate to people’s health needs to keep them fit and healthy.”

Looking through the evidence, Professor Buckle found that risk assessment of work for over 65 year olds lacks a sound evidence base and told SHP that one of his recommendations to HSE’s new workplace health expert committee, which met for the first time on 24 June, will be to commission research into this area.

“HSE has done a great job of trying to understand risk to workers but it’s always been done on the working population but now we hardly know anything about people over the age of 65 in work because we’ve not had them before,” he said.

To view the Workplace Infrastructure report and its key findings, visit:

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