Healthcare employers and workers are being asked for views on the impact on staff of working into their 60s as part of a review that could pave the way for employers to make increased contributions for staff in particularly demanding roles.
The NHS retirement age was linked to the new state pension age by the Public Service Pensions Act 2013. This means the retirement age will increase to 66 by 2020, 67 by 2036 and 68 by 2046.
As part of the agreement to the change health unions negotiated a commitment from the government to review the impact on NHS employees of working longer.
The Working Longer Review Group, which includes representatives from the unions, the Department of Health and NHS Employers, has been meeting since the Autumn and this week launched a call for evidence.
The group is seeking views on topics including what makes it easier for healthcare staff to work longer and the impact of flexible working policies.
The group is also exploring whether employers could be required to make increased pension contributions for groups of staff in particularly demanding roles, allowing them to retire early without having a reduced pension.
In light of this the groups is seeking evidence on which groups of healthcare employees face particular challenges in working longer.
Gill Bellord, director of employment relations and reward at NHS Employers, said it was important the call for evidence collected the views of as many different groups as possible.
“It is really important that employment practice enables staff to work successfully and productively at all ages”.
A literature review by academics at the University of Bath, commissioned by the review group, concluded that healthy older people with up to date skills “perform as well as their younger counterparts”.
However, it acknowledged there was a lack of NHS specific research.
It also found many NHS employees left the service before pensionable to work for other employers who offered more flexible hours and warned this could lead to staff shortages if the trend continued.
Shift working was a major driver of people choosing to work outside the NHS, the report said, with individuals preferring to work fewer hours over a “down shift” to roles with fewer responsibilities.
While flexible and part time working can increase costs per employee hour, the report said, this was “generally offset” by factors such as enhanced scope for matching staffing levels to demand, better motivation and less sickness absences.
The call for evidence runs until 5 September. Findings will be fed into the final report of the Working Longer Review which will make recommendations to NHS Staff Council and the Department of Health.