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Managing an ageing workforce in a small business

  • Blog
  • 12 September 2018

Man looking a wooden planks on a shelf

The abolition of the default retirement age (DRA) by the 2010 discrimination act is a good thing for individuals but for many employers it can bring significant challenges. According to the Office for National Statistics, the proportion of those aged 65 and over who are in work has almost doubled in the last 15 years.

Generally, the primary driver for remaining in employment is financial but in the case of family businesses or self-employed there is a much stronger tie to the individuals themselves, often being the business owner.

Impact of the  challenge 

According to a recent report by Stephen Bevan, head of HR research development at the Institute for Employment Studies, it is estimated that by 2030 around 40% of the working age population will have at least one chronic and work-limiting health condition.

There is a wide range of illnesses which are more likely to affect more mature employees, ranging from serious physical conditions such as cancer, heart conditions or stroke, mental health conditions and diseases associated with later life such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s.

Modern medicine means that fortunately more people are surviving serious illnesses and can continue to work, but many are coping with the long-term after effects which may have an impact on their work performance or need for flexibility.

Many older workers can also find themselves with significant caring responsibilities for their spouse or partner as well as supporting their children and grandchildren, and many will suffer a significant bereavement during their working life

Emerging changes

Nowadays, there are more opportunities to work flexibly and this can go a long way to helping older workers and also be a good way to ease into a phased retirement.

Businesses need to be mindful the changing demographics within their workforce and consider how they can accommodate more flexibility to enable employees to continue to contribute effectively to the business.

How FSB can help

FSB Care is included at no extra cost to FSB members and provides long-term support from a dedicated registered nurse who can help in many ways such as

  1. Advice and guidance on management of health conditions and their long-term effects
  2. Explanation of options for treatment
  3. Suggestions of coping strategies
  4. Help to ensure that the individual makes best use of all services available to them, for example from the NHS, those provided by the employer and perhaps insurer, specialist charities and social services.
  5. Assessment and provision of therapies or counselling necessary to recovery, rather than waiting on NHS waiting lists.
  6. Advice on suitable workplace adjustments or therapeutic equipment.

Examples in practice

A lady with arthritis who sometimes found it difficult to get to work, particularly in the cold weather when her mobility was more painful and limited. A gentleman with Multiple Sclerosis who was concerned at the rapid degeneration of his condition. A mother grieving the sudden death of her adult son while also picking up on childcare responsibilities for her grandchildren. A gentleman keen to get back to work following a stroke which left him partially disabled.

All of these employees benefitted from the long-term practical advice and emotional support from a dedicated personal nurse, including support in discussion with employers around working patterns, suitable workstation adjustments, timely provision of therapies which otherwise would have a long wait on the NHS, identification of charities and self-help groups, and most importantly a listening ear with plenty of time to listen, guide and support the employee.

* Statistics provided by the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia UK report. 


FSB Care from FSB

FSB members with a serious health condition have free access to a personal nurse adviser - providing practical information and emotional support.

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