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How can employers defuse the age time bomb?

A House of Lords enquiry recently concluded that Britain is 'woefully underprepared' to cope with its fast-rising population of older people.

The pace of demographic change is startling. In the 20 years leading up to 2030, it's estimated there'll be a 50 per cent increase in the number of people aged 65 and older, and a 100 per cent increase in those aged 85 and older.

If the country as a whole isn't facing up to the future, then what's the situation like in the British workplace? Recent far-reaching changes in employment law have already seen an end to the Default Retirement Age and the introduction of the auto-enrolment pension, both aimed at tackling the problem of an aging workforce. But is there more that employers could or should be doing to prepare?

It's difficult to make an effective strategy without having accurate records to hand. That's why employers should take an age audit of their staff so they can plan ahead. For example, do they know how many senior staff are approaching possible retirement, and how many of them are specialists with knowledge that needs to be passed on to a younger generation? Do they have a succession plan? Do they have a system of capturing and storing expertise for the long-term benefit of the organisation?

Being flexible about working practices and retirement options may help organisations keep hold of their most valued and experienced employees. But to make sure the talent pipeline is at its optimum, they'll have to balance retaining their aging workforce with trying to create opportunities for younger employees to develop their careers.

Keeping records in a systematic and organised way is often more difficult for small firms that may not have in-house HR support. That's why Acas offers Help for small firms to get it right, and can point them in the right direction with effective record keeping. Acas also gives general advice about record keeping in the Advisory booklet - Personnel data and record keeping and about flexible working arrangements in The right to request flexible working.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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