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N8 Industry Innovation Forum Extending Working Lives: How are Employers and Employees responding to the external drivers to extend working life?

We successfully applied for Stage 2 funding for this flagship collaborative project between the universities of Liverpool, Newcastle and York, and several key industry partners. Stage 2 of the project raises questions in relation to employers' and employees' responsiveness to the phasing out of the compulsory retirement age, in an effort to consider both perspectives. Although the majority of workers aged 55+ are employed in SMEs, little attention has been paid to this sector, which manages HR issues differently from large businesses and is vulnerable to major labour market changes like ageing workforces.

Evidence has suggested that collaborations between researchers and industry can help to address this deficit (Newcastle Science City, 2011). A key objective of the project is thus to gain the perspective of the employers in relation to their preparedness for an older workforce, the perspectives of employees to working longer (including the barriers), and intends to measure the gap between the two. Cultural changes (both organisational and social) are required to close the gap, and action plans must prepare businesses in the UK for an ageing workforce.

Intermediary organisations such as trade unions and government bodies help to promote sustainable HR practices, and the project is run in partnership between these groups with the academic team. By focusing on the multi-faceted nature of culture, the diversity of the size of employers and recognising that the workplace is increasingly global, this project will enable our partners who work with employers and employees to help them create effective working relationships. This will impact positively on the former and well-being of the latter, and will indirectly impact on the success of businesses. One of the projectís key objectives is to enable us to work with our partners to develop innovative work practices and new products, including assistive technologies, to enhance and extend working life.

Our Stage 2 project encompasses 6 research strands:

  • Employers Evaluation with SMEs and their Employees (led by York University in collaboration with Age Inclusive);
  • Employees' Survey (led by Newcastle University in collaboration with Scottish Chambers of Commerce & Scottish HWL);
  • Literature Review (led by University of Liverpool), focusing on organisational, social and international cultures;
  • Developing an international perspective (led by Age UK); we intend to develop collaborations with an international perspective in the UK context and with an Asian multinational (Samsung);
  • Gap analysis and synthesis (led by Liverpool). We will produce a final report identifying facilitators, barriers and opportunities for practical developments and innovation. Liverpool will lead the partners in preparation for Stage 3 funding.
  • We will pursue an innovation agenda with Years Ahead and RED Embedded in order to produce for businesses and their employees viable solutions to some of the problems caused by extended working lives.

  • The core academic team (Liverpool, York, Newcastle) conduct bi-weekly telephone meetings, with the other key partners (Age Inclusive, Age UK, Years Ahead, RED Embedded) meeting once a month. The work packages (York, Newcastle) will be carried out between December and February.





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