IOSH Older Workers policy

Many countries have ageing workforces, with retirement ages rising and working lives becoming longer. Older workers are a valuable resource and make a positive contribution to organisations. We need to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for all. 

IOSH believes that good working conditions throughout working lives benefit workers, businesses and society. Good work is good for physical and mental health and effective management of occupational safety and health helps ensure all workers can fulfil their potential at work. This is vital for addressing the challenges and opportunities of managing an older and ageing workforce.

The Facts:

  • Many countries have ageing workforces, with retirement ages rising and working lives becoming longer and it’s estimated that a third of workers in developed countries will be over 60 by 2050.
  • EU-OSHA estimate that by 2030, workers aged 55 to 64 will make up 30% or more in many European countries.
  • We know that good work is good for physical and mental health and effective management of occupational safety and health (OSH) helps ensure all workers can fulfil their potential at work.
  • The impact of ageing on workers is as varied as the individuals concerned and many countries have increased or eliminated a mandatory retirement age.
  • 13.5 million UK job vacancies are estimated between 2012-22, but only 7 million young school- and college-leavers and so older workers are needed to fill the gap.
  • Research concludes the functional effects of physical, sensory and cognitive changes to older workers can often be minimised and that knowledge, experience and skills can compensate for reduced speed, with improved accuracy and quality.
  • Extended working lives will potentially result in longer exposure to hazards at work, unless those risks are properly managed.
  • A higher proportion of older workers means there will be more people with chronic health conditions at work, making good rehabilitation and return-to-work of increasing importance.
  • IOSH is actively supporting the EU-OSHA campaign healthy workplace for all ages, which provides e-guides for OSH professionals, employers, HR managers and workers; practical tools and guidance; case studies; and campaign materials.
  • EU-OSHA have undertaken a range of research around older workers, including country inventories; and rehabilitation and return-to-work and have also identified examples of workplace good practices.

Our Position:

IOSH believes that good working conditions throughout working lives benefit workers, businesses and society. Working lives are getting longer and therefore supporting healthy extended careers and workability for all ages is vital.

Older workers are a valuable resource and make a positive contribution to organisations. Age diversity at work brings benefits to individuals, workplaces and wider society, such as a broader range of skills and experience; opportunities for skill-transfer and mentoring; reduced staff turnover; and improved staff morale as described in the DWP guide on employing older workers.

An aging workforce raises employment challenges and opportunities. We know good work is good for physical and mental health and that effective OSH management can help ensure all workers can fulfil their potential. IOSH calls on employers to deliver proactive age management, as outlined in the employer toolkit, including better designed work and workplace adjustment; training, retraining and redeployment; flexible working; and phased retirement.

OSH professionals can support the management of an older workforce through diversity-sensitive risk assessment and also help dispel myths and unhelpful stereotypes. IOSH provides free resources to help organisations support older workers, including guidance on rehabilitation and mobile workers, our occupational health toolkit, our Blueprint competence and skills framework and various IOSH research reports, including on post retirement age workers and health promotion needs of older workers.

Relevant IOSH Consultation Responses: