There’s only six weeks to go until the European Health and Safety Week 2016, with the theme this year of: “Healthy Workplaces for all Ages.” Further information about the event can be found here, but as we count down each passing week, we’ll take a brief look at one of the relevant topical issues.
This week we’re considering the aging workforce.
Although the term ‘ageing workforce’ is often used, in reality we are all ageing, and throughout our working lives our bodies undergo numerous changes. In many cases these changes are not significant; or are more than made up for by other positive attributes such as greater experience, improved judgement, and more job related knowledge.
However, employers must consider these changes when managing the health and safety of their staff. UNISON’s guide, “The Aging Workforce” advises branches on how they can work with employers to ensure they meet these responsibilities in a fair and non-discriminatory manner. Employers will also need to do more to adapt work to the changing needs of employees if the desire of successive governments to increase the employment rates among older workers is to be achieved.
Employers should carry out suitable and sufficient risk assessments of the hazards their employees may be exposed to at work, and should consider any particularly vulnerable groups. They must not discriminate against workers because of their:
age (unless that there is an objective justification where such treatment is proportionate to a legitimate aim), or
disability (which therefore requires an employer to make reasonable adjustments).
What can safety reps do?
Make sure sickness absence polices recognise that older works may take more time off for chronic health problems (but are less likely to have frequent short term absences).
Ensure as a reasonable adjustment, that time off work due to disability is managed separately to sick leave.
If due to changing capabilities, job tasks or demands need to be altered or even a complete redeployment is required, make sure this is handled sensitively and with the workers agreement.
Ensure that reasonable adjustments are made to the working environment.
Make sure that relevant risk assessments, policies, procedures, and adjustments are gender and age neutral, and consider those who may be particularly vulnerable due to their age.
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