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Jobs and physical fitness: Where working longer is seen as a problem

by on August 26, 2016

I wrote yesterday about the latest figures for those over 65 working in the UK and wondered about factors that would affect the rate of working. As well as more general economic factors, it may also be the case that in some sectors or lines of work the nature of the job is not seen as conducive to being carried out by those over 65 (or not routinely, as I am sure there will always be those who are exceptions to this and any rule).

This was highlighted earlier this week on the BBC website. The article reported that representatives of 1,250 armed police officers who protect UK civil nuclear sites have challenged a rule forcing them to work beyond the age of 60. It seems that under the new laws affecting public service workers – due to take effect in April 2017 – these officers will have to work until they are 65, and eventually 68, to receive their pension. The argument put forward by the Civil Nuclear Police Federation (CNPF) is that it will be “physically impossible” for officers in their mid-60s to protect the public from terrorism.

Their Chief Executive Nigel Dennis is quoted by the BBC as saying “Neither can I believe that the public will feel protected if eventually we have aggressively armed police officers in their mid-60s being deployed against terrorists.

This is a similar line of argument to one that we reported in respect of firefighters: In that case, the ad posed the question: ‘If you called 999 would you expect a 60 year old to come running?‘ Interesting to see that in the case of the CNPF, there is the added contextual reference to terrorism. As then, I’d suggest a lot depends on the individuals concerned and their levels of fitness and physical ability, but perhaps the idea of individual fitness assessment is not welcome in these occupations. I don’t underestimate the commitment and effort involved in staying in peak physical condition nor the potential for injury in physically demanding roles.

I’m also, however, reminded of the case of Kevin Fulthorpe who was told that he couldn’t continue in post as a physical training instructor with the Army on reaching his 61st birthday, despite meeting the fitness criteria for an Army physical training instructor 30 years his junior.  This prompted us to ask – where is the reward for staying fit? Happily in his case he found alternative training work with the Royal Air Force.

All of this suggests that these are not easy decisions and how difficult it is to find a ‘one size fits all’ that is a fair solution for all concerned.

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