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Best Employers for Workers Over 50

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BT

Winner: 2010 AARP International Innovative Employer Award

BT

Winning Years: 2008, 2009, 2010
Industry: Telecommunications
Location: London, United Kingdom
URL:  www.bt.com
Employees: 97,655; Percentage over 50: 30.7%

Highlights of 2010 Winning Strategies

BT employees benefit from a variety of flexible work arrangements through the company's "Achieving the Balance" program. These arrangements help older employees make the transition from full-time employment to retirement. The Career Life Planning Tool, another innovative BT program, helps employees develop their careers at every stage and accounts for changes that may emerge during employment. BT operates a Diversity Centre of Excellence whose employees reach out to all lines of business to manage their diversity agendas. This centre includes a staff member dedicated to promoting BT's age diversity strategy.

Additional policies and practices:


Lifelong Learning and Training: BT Group has a Career Life Planning tool that covers every stage of an individual's career with BT. This tool recognizes that employees' career plans and lives outside work change over time and helps individuals and line managers work together to understand how such changes can be planned for, and how appropriate development strategies can be created.

In 2009, BT also gave a pre-retirement course to 200 employees, mostly age 50 and above, delivered by its partner, JPMorgan Investment. The course aims at helping employees focus on retirement-related lifestyle changes and provides information on the BT pension and retirement plans, state benefits, and tax planning.

Flexible Work Arrangements: BT offers a wide variety of flexible working arrangements to its employees. The arrangements include part-time work options, compressed hours, job sharing, working from home and more. About 14,500 employees now work from home and 75,000 work flexibly in some way. BT's own research shows that this has improved productivity and reduced sick absence and employee turnover.

BT's flexible and agile working policies and practices are packaged within a program portfolio titled Achieving the Balance. This portfolio outlines the different options that are available to help people find the most suitable working arrangements for their circumstances. A component of this portfolio includes options for transition from full-time employment to retirement.
 
The Achieving the Balance portfolio includes several opportunities that, although available to everyone in BT, are particularly useful to older people. They include:

 

  • Wind Down — Giving employees more personal time
  • Step Down — Moving to roles with less responsibility and less stress
  • Time Out — Providing career breaks and sabbaticals for up to two years 
  • Helping Hands — Allowing secondments to a charity for up to two years 
  • Ease Down — Gradually reducing the level of responsibility while continuing to work for BT

    Health Promotion and Protection: BT promotes physical and mental well-being through a framework of primary, secondary and tertiary interventions. Primary interventions include engagement in health-promotion activities, such as their "Work Fit" program (see below). Secondary interventions provide early intervention when problems arise via services, such as employee counseling. Tertiary intervention is rehabilitation after illness, and/or taking advice from specialists.
     
    The Work Fit program has focused on several areas of health and well-being, which, although they affect all employees, affect people over 50 in increasing numbers. BT has also positively promoted a mental well-being awareness program under the title of "Positive Mentality." The goal of this initiative is to bust some of the myths associated with mental health and increase overall awareness.
     
    The "Passport" initiative features a document that an employee can complete at his or her own pace and in his or her own style describing any special work or personal circumstances or requirements. This might include whom to contact in an emergency, activities that he or she would prefer not to take part in, possible effects of medications, or simplified procedures for reporting that he or she does not feel able to come into work. This is then shared with the Line Manager, who does not relinquish responsibility for the individual until the Passport has been used to fully brief and hand over to the new manager. This, in turn, makes it easier for the

    individual to move across the business, without having to keep explaining their circumstances to new supervisors.

    All employees have access to the Employee Assistance Program, which offers up to four free counseling sessions to discuss a variety of issues, including health. BT believes this program particularly benefits older workers.
     
    Diversity Promotion: BT has developed a number of initiatives to promote diversity in relation to attraction, recruitment, promotion and training. With respect to age diversity, BT promotes mixed-age teams and initiatives supporting effective work among different age groups.

    BT has a Global Equality & Diversity Forum, comprising senior executives across the business, which has responsibility for the delivery of the company's diversity strategy.

    BT is a member of a number of recognized external benchmarking organizations, such as the Employers Forum on Age, and maintains close links to TAEN (The Age and Employment Network), ILC (International Longevity Centre) and Age Concern, which BT involves specifically in product development through its Age and Inclusion Team.

    BT abolished its normal retirement age in 2005. As a consequence, it now has more than 2,000 workers over age 60; 32% of its workforce is over 50.

    Recruitment: BT's recruitment procedures are age-neutral, seeking to recruit from every age range. BT's graduate and apprentice schemes no longer include any age limit. BT's preferred recruitment suppliers have been contractually committed to providing "diverse short lists" for all vacancies, which should include a wide age demographic.
     
    Miscellaneous: BT has for many years been operating long service award schemes for employees. In addition, BT has developed programs to help older customers overcome the digital divide, including the "Internet Rangers Program."

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