Recognising women’s health in an ageing workforce

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2018 National Women's Conference
27 September 2017

Conference recognises the increasing ageing workforce following changes to pension age. Whilst the ageing workforce does affect all genders, we must recognise the specific impact this has for women with female only health issues and the pressures that women face in the ageing workforce particularly in the public sector with the majority of the workforce female.

It is clear that employers do not have a plan in place for an ageing workforce who may no longer be able to fulfil the tasks of their original roles. With reduced opportunities for redeployment as workforces reduce due to austerity which has reduced staff beyond levels ever seen before and, as more public sector employers set up wholly owned subsidiaries and arms length companies these further reduce the opportunity to redeploy these staff even further.

In addition women are likely to have additional personal pressures as they age holding a number of caring roles from caring for grandchildren, to caring for an elderly relative often the role of the woman. According to a survey by the TUC 49% of women over the age of 50 are caring for a parent whilst 39% are caring for a child

Employers need to take positive steps to recognise the impact these factors will have on the woman and her ability to fulfil her substantive role and identify how they can proactively support these women in their later careers and not use capability or other process to remove the woman from this role.

Many UNISON women are in physically and mentally demanding roles such as teaching assistants, domestics, cooks, social workers, sure staff to name a few, although the level of physical activity and mental pressures can fluctuate there is always a need for physical and mental effort, as the woman ages naturally her ability to meet these demands can lessen.

The woman may have been in this role for most of her working life and have significantly developed skills and redeployment into other posts may not always be the best use of her skills and knowledge. Employers should use these women to develop and enhance their operational workforce.

A priority should be given to explore new support mechanisms as part of the health and wellbeing agenda.

We ask the national women’s committee to:

• Work with the NEC to develop a survey of unison women members aged 55 and over to identify the challenges they face as an ageing workforce including impact on personal health and ability to fulfil their role as they age;

• Encourage regions and branches to work with employers to develop local policies to support women in an ageing workforce and how they can take proactive steps to support her