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Relations discussion paper serie ss discussion paper serie Discussion paper 1

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discussion discussionpaper paperseries series December 2011 discussion paper series This paper is one of a series commissioned by Acas to address the future of workplace relations. It follows a publication in January
2011 “The Future of
Workplace Relations:
An Acas View “ which addressed the wider terrain of employment relations including the drivers for change and the key future challenges. All papers in the series can be found at future This Acas Policy
Discussion paper was written by Emma Parry,
Cranfield School of
Management and Lynette
Harris, Nottingham
Business School. The views expressed are those of the authors and not the Acas Council.
Series editors Sarah
Podro and Gill Dix. We welcome your comments and opinions. These should be sent to policypublications@acas.

The Employment Relations
Challenges of an Ageing Workforce
Emma Parry, Cranfield School of Management and
Lynette Harris, Nottingham Business School
Demographic shifts create challenges for society and social policy. One of the most dynamic changes currently occurring in the workplace is the increasing number of older workers. Health, economic, social and legislative changes are contributing to this trend, which is set to present opportunities and challenges over the forthcoming decade.
The implications are likely to be wide ranging. These are reflected in current debates which range from the considerable benefits of an extended, experienced older workforce, to concerns that their presence may block opportunities for younger workers wishing to enter or progress in the workplace. Changes around pension entitlement and the removal of the default retirement age have made the question of older workers, and the move to retirement more contested than ever.
And debates are not just confined to issues within the workplace. Questions of the ageing workforce are now merging with wider concerns around caring, financial security and healthcare.
How can employers be sure to effectively respond to these changes? And what are the wider implications for employment relations? Acas commissioned Dr Emma
Parry and Professor Lynette Harris to consider these issues and to explore in depth the implications of the ageing workforce for employment relations.
Dr Emma Parry is a Principal Research Fellow,
Cranfield School of Management and Lynette Harris is
Professor of HRM and Professional Practice, Nottingham
Business School.

The Context

workforce is not due to demographics alone; it is part of a wider trend towards longer working lives stemming from a combination of economic and social factors and legislative changes. As a result, workers currently aged 50 can expect to be working for a further 15 to
20 years with the numbers of individuals working beyond 65 predicted to increase following the removal of the default retirement age of 65 in October 2011.

In common with many other European countries, the UK has an ageing population resulting in a growing proportion of older workers in its labour force. This presents a challenge for employers, employees, trade unions and government in terms of developing employment policies and practices that are appropriate to increasingly age diverse workplaces. This paper will identify the key factors that are contributing to this demographic shift.
It will then provide an overview of what is known from the research evidence of the impact this is having on employment practices and approaches to age management, and it will examine the implications for employment relations in the future. For the purposes of discussion the term ‘older worker’ will be defined as those aged 50 and over; a growing group in the workforce described by Weiss and
Bass (2002) as being in the third age of