DG Writes: With the workforce getting older I would like to incorporate plans ahead of time to make sure my policies account for an aging workforce. Are there certain things I need to have in place now and in the future?

The Equality Act 2010 lists age as one of the nine protected characteristics and offers statutory protection to individuals so that they are not treated detrimentally on the basis of a protected characteristic they may possess. It is important that your rules, policies and practices treat all your employees equally and fairly in regard to all aspects, such as training, career prospects, etc. If you offer regular internal training, such as monthly, quarterly or yearly refresher sessions, you should offer them to all your staff as you should not exclude staff from receiving training regardless of their age or prospects to stay with the company. Similarly, if training is required in order to secure higher positions, you should not limit the career development of older employees. Giving all staff the opportunity to move forward internally will keep them motivated and make them feel valued for their expertise and experience within the company.

When hiring new employees, make sure your hiring policy and practices are non-discriminatory.  Ensure you are not excluding younger or older candidates because of lack of experience or age. You should not place limitations on recruitment and should treat all applicants in the same way. Age discrimination claims can be brought by prospective employees as they do not require any period of continuous service.

Older employees may find it more difficult to balance their personal responsibilities and work responsibilities, and they may be more likely to need time off due to caring responsibilities or ill health. Make all employees aware of their right to make a flexible working request and consider whether it is possible to accommodate such requests even for a temporary trial period.

As employees get older, you may notice a drop in their performance or the quality of their work. Although you may believe timing is right for them to retire, remember that you cannot force employees to do so, nor can you generally set a retirement age which applies to all employees. All staff are free to retire voluntarily when they see fit and asking directly when they plan to do this should be avoided. If you notice performance issues with an older employee you should deal with this under your standard capability process.