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BITCNI’s Healthy Working Lives Conference

26/02/17

Employers to consider impact of aged working population at fully-booked event

With people now living longer than ever before, modern workforces are rapidly changing to include a more aged population. Employees are expected and indeed, often want, to keep working beyond what once would have been considered retirement age.

As a result, businesses – be they in the creative industries or other sectors – are being encouraged to reap the benefits of this and to understand how to manage their staff.

The Healthy Working Lives Conference seeks to address this issue on March 2, when a range of local businesses will gather in Belfast to discuss health and wellbeing in the workplace.Organised by Business in the Community NI (BITCNI), in partnership with the Public Health Agency (PHA), the free half-day event is already booked out, an indicator perhaps of how pertinent the matter is.

Amy Kieran, workplace programme manager at BITCNI, says they conducted extensive research into the subject before choosing the theme of Age at Work for the conference. With people now living longer and with falling birth rates, she says there’s a need to retain skilled employees to ensure that businesses don’t suffer from a talent shortage.

'The economic downturn, coupled with the removal of the mandatory retirement age, means that people are also required, financially, to work longer,' she adds.

Taking these external factors into account, Kieran says the conference theme was also selected due to BITCNI’s own commitment to promoting health, wellbeing and inclusion, at work.

'One aspect of the Business in the Community Workplace Campaign centres on promoting responsible employer attitudes to the wellbeing of their staff,' she says. “We know that increased life expectancy and increased healthy life expectancy are two different things. Equally, many long-term and serious health conditions grow increasingly prevalent as we age. Those nearing retirement may face challenges in terms of adjusting to this major life change, while potential social isolation upon leaving the workplace may impact on mental health.

'The second pillar of the Workplace Campaign focuses on inclusion – creating diverse and open workplaces. With up to five generations now thought to be in the workforce at any one time, it’s important that employers take note of any differences between the generations and ensure effective inter-generational working practices. We also wanted to tackle workplace culture and structure, considering flexibility in terms of retirement, work patterns and so on – particularly in light of changing caring responsibilities and approaches to retirement.

'With these key drivers in mind, we decided to build upon the work of our Invest NI-funded Collaborative Network – tasked to scope out the key areas within this issue in the latter half of 2016 – and broach the complex, and far-reaching, topic of Age at Work.'

With HR professionals from across the public, private and voluntary sectors set to attend the conference, Kieran says there’s been “great interest” in this year’s event. She adds that the aim is for delegates to come away with “an idea of the changing landscape in which we are living and working, and a clearer sense of how those changes are impacting their organisations and will continue to do so in the future.'

Employers will be inspired and encouraged on the day to maximise the opportunities presented by having an ageing workforce, she says. They’ll also go away equipped with practical ideas on how best to do this.

To help with this, the half-day conference will feature case studies from both local and national employers, including Allstate, BT, Aviva and Deloitte, who will demonstrate best practice approaches and share tips. Attendees will also have the opportunity to network, and to visit a range of exhibitor stands from organisations including Age NI, Dementia NI, Cancer Focus and Action Mental Health.

'Our conversations with BITCNI members indicates that Age at Work is an emerging issue for many employers,' says Kieran. 'It’s on the radar, with some great work being achieved to maximise opportunity, but there still remains much to be done.'

The Healthy Working Lives Conference takes place on Thursday, March 2 at the Riddel Hall, Stranmillis Road, Belfast. To be placed on the reserve list for this event visit: http://www.bitcni.org.uk/event/pha-healthy-working-lives-conference-2017.

By Claire Savage