Ringing changes: Stephen Shaw retrained as a customer service adviser to continue at St Leger Homes

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When Stephen Shaw found his job as a caretaker was becoming too physically demanding, he was not forced into retirement. The 63-year-old’s employer, St Leger Homes of Doncaster, helped him retrain as a customer service adviser. He has also cut his hours and taken part of his pension early.

St Leger is a social housing provider that is trying to retain an ageing workforce through its New Directions scheme. It has 774 employees, with 285 in manual jobs. More than a third are aged over 50 and many are tenants in the 21,000 council-owned homes it manages in the northern town. When physical work becomes too hard or staff need to cut hours to care for relatives, the company tries to help them switch jobs.

“Not only has this programme had a tremendous impact on the individual employees concerned and their wellbeing but it also retains the knowledge and skills of our workforce,” says Susan Jordan, St Leger’s chief executive.

The programme has also cut recruitment costs and helped the company meet business objectives, she adds.

St Leger, winner of the Championing an Ageing Workforce Award, has saved an estimated £26,000 in recruitment costs in the past 12 months. Annual staff turnover is 4.5 per cent, compared with a sector average of 10.9 per cent.

Sickness absence has also reduced from 9.6 days per full-time equivalent employee to 8.4 days since the programme began. Managers work with trade unions to ensure options are made clear to employees in a new appraisal system of Personal Annual Reviews.

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