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Updated NICE guideline says older employees should not be stereotyped

25 March 2016

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Workers should avoid falling into the trap of stereotyping older employees, according to updated guidance issued by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).

Its recommendations are designed to boost the health and wellbeing of workers over 50.

Last year there were nearly 9.4 million workers over 50 years old in the UK, with 1.17 million of them aged 65 or over, and the number is set to increase.

It is predicted that older people will make up 32% of the workforce by 2020, because of the increase in the state pension age and longer life expectancy.

NICE’s deputy chief executive and director of health and social care Professor Gillian Leng said the recommendations would “ensure that an older person can continue working, with their health and wellbeing protected, until their retirement”.

Recommendations include avoiding assuming that that older people may find it difficult to learn new tasks, or that a younger worker could be less dependable.

Instead it said people should be treated on an individual basis.

Older workers should be offered training if their job changes or if they received education years ago.

NICE said they should also be given help to access health and screening such as cervical screening or eye tests and get time off to attend appointments.

Employers should also address key events, which could affect their older colleagues, such as offering them carer’s leave or flexible working if they need to care for grandchildren or parents.

Leng said it was essential to protect older workers’ health and wellbeing to maintain a healthy and diversified workforce.

She said employers should consider their needs to help keep them in employment longer.

“If their job role changes, the employer needs to support the individual to re-train, as well as accommodating changes in personal circumstances.”

Professor Mark Gabby, from the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society at Liverpool University said: ‘The role and leadership style of line managers is particularly important when supporting employees in the workplace.”

He added, the team that developed the guidelines “felt that it was important to challenge stereotypical assumptions associated with both older and younger people with children and older people with dependents. With this guideline, we want to encourage employers to think about the needs of their workers at all stages of life.”

The updated guidance for all employees can be found here.