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How smart businesses retain older workers

Human Rights Commission
Media release
Embargoed against publication
until 6am 3 September, 2008

Guide shows how smart businesses retain older workers

Smart organisations are redesigning work to retain older workers, according to a new guide for New Zealand employers wanting to recruit and retain mature employees.

The guide, Valuing Experience: a practical guide to recruiting and retaining older workers, provides information both on older worker’s rights and responsibilities and tips for employers.

It also includes best practice examples from major New Zealand companies who are trying to reduce burnout and injuries to older workers while retaining their experience.

Genesis Energy, for example, uses the technique of pairing younger maintenance people with older engineers so younger workers can learn from the older employee’s experience, while doing more of the heavy work.

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Judy McGregor said the guide had been produced in response to demand from business and older workers themselves.

“Currently almost a quarter of New Zealand’s workforce is in the 50-64 years age group and the number of workers over 65 years was 65,000 in 2006. This is projected to increase to 105,000 in 2011 and to 160,000 in 2021 so we need to get better at employing older workers,” she said.

“Employers want information about how to recruit and retain older workers and employees want to know what their rights are. New Zealand business needs to know more about the retirement and work intentions of mature employees and the guide helps them do this.”

It is based on the experience of several major New Zealand employers who participated in a year long project identifying and addressing older worker issues.

The guide covers positioning organisations to effectively employ older workers and provides information on the key dimensions of recruiting and retaining older workers, work design, job structure, effective supervision, managing performance, training and development and motivation and rewards.

The new resource was produced by a group comprising the Human Rights Commission, the Retirement Commission, the EEO Trust, Business New Zealand, the CTU and the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce.

Valuing Experience’s 12 tips for employing older workers.

1. Age-proof your organisation by identifying what you want to achieve, such as retention of skills and knowledge for competitive advantage

2. Identify the current age profile of your organisation so that you know of retirement intentions and can effectively plan for succession

3. To encourage job applications from older workers, consider different forms of flexible work arrangements including shorter weeks, extended leave periods and quality part-time work

4. Ensure job advertisements and job descriptions do not refer to age in either words or images and do not directly or indirectly discriminate against older workers

5. Commit at the top of your organisation at CEO and senior management level to ensure a business culture that values age and experience in the workforce

6. Equip managers and supervisors to enhance the performance of older workers through awareness training, career discussion tools and effective communication

7. Focus on performance not age to ensure workers have the skills, knowledge and motivation for the job and ensure your performance management system is flexible to cater for a diverse range of employees

8. Address performance issues proactively as soon as possible to avoid hard conversations about poor or deteriorating performance and ensure all employees are treated fairly and with dignity

9. Consult older employees about decisions that affect them and what would motivate them

10. To ensure your organisation has up-to-date skills, actively offer older workers appropriate training and development opportunities and ensure different learning styles are catered for

11. Re-design jobs to reduce demands such as risk of injury or burnout while retaining experience and consider older workers for mentoring, pairing or “buddy” systems, quality control or trouble-shooting roles

12. Offer phased retirement opportunities to extend the working lives of valued older employees

Older workers’ top ten rights- from Valuing Experience.

1. Age discrimination in employment is unlawful under the Human Rights Act 1993 and this applies to everyone aged 16 years and over.

2. You do not have to provide your age as part of the job application or interview process.

3. Job advertisements should not specify age or use language like “young” or “old” but can refer to experience needed.

4. Ask to see the pay scales in your new job to ensure you are paid the same as others in the same job

5. Make sure you have the same opportunities for training and development as younger employees

6. Seek promotion opportunities at work and challenge workplace attitudes, policies and practices that favour younger workers

7. Ask about your entitlement to flexible work if you care for dependants

8. You do not have to retire at any specific age such as 65 years and an employer cannot force you to retire

9. Ask about phased retirement options in your organisation such as moving to part time work

10. Take up opportunities for up-skilling and training so you can work longer if you want to or have to.


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