Today's News / Environmental and Occupational Health

Why – and how – to retain an aging workforce

Managing health problems can help companies keep experienced staffers

older workerProviding accommodations to aging workers with disabilities, chronic health problems or reduced work capacity can help employers retain experienced staff who might otherwise leave the workforce prematurely, according to two briefs issued recently by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The briefs provide recommendations for state and federal policymakers, employers and health care industry leaders on retaining critical talent. One identifies successful strategies, including supportive policies, for retaining aging health care professionals without sacrificing patient care. The other recommends that employers and policymakers adopt early interventions to prevent disability-related job loss by providing workers with assistive technology and other workplace accommodations.

By 2020, millions of baby boomers will exit the labor force,
leaving many jobs unfilled and taking decades of accumulated knowledge.

The briefs summarize assessments and recommendations from two conferences sponsored by the department's Office of Disability Employment Policy that gathered experts on aging, disability and employment to discuss the impact of aging on the national workforce and health care systems. The U.S Census Bureau projects that, by 2020, many of the 25 million baby boomers that make up more than 40 percent of the current U.S. labor force will exit, leaving many jobs unfilled and taking decades of accumulated knowledge with them. In addition, as the population ages, the demand for health care services will increase just as many health care workers are facing retirement.

"A confluence of demographic, economic, and health factors have intersected to make the employment situation of older Americans a matter of urgent national importance," said Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy. "By promoting workforce flexibility, harnessing widespread advances in assistive technology, and using other types of workplace accommodations, we can slow the mass exodus of older workers in health care and other industries, and continue to benefit from the knowledge and skills they bring."

To read the issue briefs, visit ODEP's Web page at http://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/OlderWorkers.htm.

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