Over 50s 'offer increased reliability'

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Businesses should consider the benefits of employing more experienced staff

Businesses of all sizes understand the importance of being able to depend upon their employees to work as hard as they can, but new research has highlighted something many business leaders might have already realised - older staff members can be more reliable.

A new report from the Prince of Wales' charity Business in the Community entitled 'The Missing Million: Illuminating the employment challenges of the over 50s' has shown a significant disparity in the number of 'sickies' being taken by younger and older workers in the UK.

Sick days for legitimate reasons are something every employer should ensure they are offering their staff, as no-one can be expected to work when they are not fit to do so. However, when it comes to individuals taking days off for reasons other than illness, Business in the Community's report revealed a stark difference in the attitudes of separate generations.

Overall, the report highlighted around a third of workers that admitted to "pulling a sickie" at some point in the last five years, with the main reasons for doing so varying from having plans and workers not wanting to use up a day's holidays (14 per cent) to being hungover (16 per cent) and, simply, feeling "too tired to get up" (28 per cent).

The results reveal a significant contrast between age groups though, as while 44 per cent of respondents aged 20 to 39 fell into this category, the figure for the over 50s dropped dramatically to just 12 per cent.

A difference between the two groups in what the organisation described as 'work ethic' was also highlighted, with more than half (55 per cent) of 20 to 39-year-olds stating they took off more days than were strictly necessary the last time they actually did fall ill, compared to 12 per cent again for their older colleagues.

Peter Corfield, managing director at business insurance provider RIAS, responded to the report's findings: "Over 50s workers continue to be a vital part of the British workforce and they should be recognised for the contribution they make. They bring a wealth of experience, ambition and knowledge that cannot be underestimated.

"It is key that we understand that workers in their 50s and 60s are not 'old', they are hardworking and dedicated, and very much want to work.

"The added benefit to UK business in employing more mature workers is that if they take less time off sick, businesses will save a small fortune in lost sick days every year."

Indeed, this latter statement might also have the ring of truth to it; according to Business in the Community's findings, just one-quarter (26 per cent) of over 50s had time off for actual illness in the last year, compared to half (53 per cent) of those aged 20 to 29.