Top 10 tips for supporting an ageing workforce

The 2015 Intergenerational Report recently released by the Australian Government forecasts that the workforce participation rate of people aged 65 and over will increase from 12.9 per cent in 2014-15 to 17.3 per cent in 2054-55.

Australia’s ageing population is being encouraged to remain in the workforce for longer to ensure the supply of workers and prevent a shortfall in business productivity.

But what sort of jobs are appropriate for older workers and what considerations should employers be thinking about to keep these workers safe and productive in their extended careers?

WorkCover Queensland Industry Manager John Kinnane says that while the benefits of an older workforce are clear, employers need to consider the different needs of older workers and how best to support them by providing a safe work environment with a focus on health and wellbeing and injury management.

“There are many advantages for employers retaining older workers, such as the opportunity to benefit from their professional experience and corporate knowledge,” John said.

“However, older workers may be more vulnerable to certain kinds of injuries, less physically fit than younger workers, and more susceptible to fatigue at work.

“To avoid more severe work-related injuries, longer rehabilitation and greater lost work time, employers should ensure they have appropriate workplace health and safety procedures in place and relevant suitable duties available for injured older workers,” John said.

Facing the dual realities of a rapidly ageing workforce and ever-evolving technologies and efficient procedures, employers are contemplating the prospect of greater investment in robust health and productivity strategies for older workers.

“Coordinated work site health interventions which encourage physical activity during work hours and have the backing of management can help to decrease the incidence of age-related injury and illness,” John said.

Top 10 tips for working with an ageing workforce

So how can employers better support the 13 per cent of the working population aged 65 and over who are currently in productive work? Below are 10 tips employers can consider to provide the safest and most productive workplace environments.

  1. Ensure that a person (regardless of age) is suited to the task and can carry it out safely.
  2. Adapt duties to suit older workers’ needs and abilities.
  3. Rotate physically demanding or repetitive tasks.
  4. Provide ergonomically designed workstations for all workers.
  5. Train all workers in injury prevention strategies – note that training requirements for older workers may be different, and training may require repetition.
  6. Ensure that workplace lighting is adequate for the job at hand.
  7. If appropriate to your workplace, offer older workers flexible work arrangements.
  8. Involve workers and tell them what is being done to reduce risks.
  9. Encourage two-way communication with workers so that they feel comfortable in discussing any potential issues.
  10. Have suitable duties available for injured workers to help them get back to work sooner and avoid long periods of time off work, which can result in feelings of alienation from the workforce.
Last updated
13 October 2015