Baby boomers are once again booming in the U.S. workforce. As many as 32 percent of those 65 to 69 and 19 percent of those 70 to 74 years old are currently employed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2024, 36 percent will still be on the job, up from just 22 percent in 1994.1
Instead of flying south for the winter, advances in medical care have given baby boomers a new lease on life. They’re staying on the job longer because they have to (hey, living longer costs more), they enjoy job satisfaction or want to stay active longer.
This ushers in a new challenge for employers – potentially higher workers’ compensation claim costs. While the frequency of occupational injuries declines as workers age because they do their job with greater skill, the injuries they do sustain are more severe, and therefore, require a longer recovery.
Additional co-morbidities, like heart disease and diabetes, more common in older workers, lengthen injury recovery times by about 13 days on average. Furthermore, there’s a greater chance older injured workers won’t ever return to the workforce at the same capacity. In most states, workers’ compensation payments are 66 and 2/3 of an employee’s salary for as long as the worker is injured. When older employees recover slowly or never fully return to work, this increase can drain an organization’s balance sheet, medical expenses and raise insurance premiums.
Keep your workers on the job longer during the golden years
It’s a known fact that most workers’ compensation claims are not accidental, but rather preventable. Here’s a few tried and true ways to keep your older employees on the job for longer:
- Build a strong safety program. Preventing injuries before they happen is a critical first step to reducing workers’ compensation costs.
- Apply ergonomics. As much as possible, make sure the job fits the individual’s capabilities. Where ergonomic accommodations can be made, do it. Consider accommodations to the employee’s work station, or have another worker assist them with lifting.
- Create a strong return to work program. When employees can’t work in the same capacity, find other avenues for them to return to the office, either temporarily or permanently.
- Consider an onsite clinic. Hire a part-time, onsite physical therapist to lead employees in stretching and treating their minor work and non-work related injuries in the office.
- Perform functional capacity assessments. After extending an offer, have new employees go through a physical assessment, or isokinetic testing, that mimics the type of job they’ll be expected to perform to ensure they’re capable.
- Transfer knowledge effectively. Companies want to retain the rich corporate knowledge of their older employees long after they’re gone from their posts. Consider mentoring younger employees hosting training sessions given by older, long-standing employees.
Create a plan for older workers to ride out their golden years under your leadership.
Contact your HUB broker and Risk Services specialist today to get started.