Absence and Disability Management Practices for an Aging Workforce

This study is focused on how professionals providing absence and disability management services and their organizations are responding to the aging workforce. It outlines some of the leading practices and challenges the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) has observed for retaining an aging workforce and discusses how the organization has responded to date.

This article is most applicable to employers as it outlines several practical solutions to help them manage their aging workforce.

Many baby boomers are foregoing retirement and working longer, out of financial need and also because they enjoy their work and desire to stay involved (Brown, 2012; Collinson, 2012), resulting in a greater number of people with disabilities in the workforce. Thus, it is advisable for employers to create an environment that is inclusive and productive.

The methodology included a short online poll developed by the DMEC leadership, followed by open ended questions, as well as a rating scale. 863 employers responded. The poll asks questions such as: 1) whether the aging workforce is a concern for them; 2) what they perceive as leading practices for an aging workforce, and 3) how they are incorporating aging workforce concerns.

Poll results indicated that most of the employers are concerned with the aging workforce and how it impacts their organizations. However, very few have implemented strategies to address the issue of aging in the workforce. Some leading practices that came out of the survey to incorporate an aging workforce are:

  • Flexibility – providing flexibility in scheduling, work location, leave, and the availability of job sharing and phased retirement
  • Maintaining and enhancing benefits – developing benefit options to accommodate flexibility such as affordable health care and leave coverage
  • Wellness programming – recognizing that healthy employees are the key to productivity and offering a wide range of wellness activities such as disease management and preventative care which are just some of the ways to improve overall heath
  • Safety checks – implementing a system to assess workplace ergonomics and worksite evaluations
  • Accommodation – making a sincere effort to explore and offer reasonable accommodations such as large-text options, 23-inch computer monitors and long term planning/budgeting for improved worksite access for those with mobility impairments
  • Stay-at-work and return-to-work programs – implementing several strategies for supporting returning to work such as personalized case management, stay-at-work and transitional assignments and training/retraining programs
  • Communication and recognition – equipping the frontline managers to understand the issues around aging and to help them improve communication