4 HR Adaptations Needed as Over-65s in Work Hits Record High


According to the Office for National Statistics, as of the quarter ending June 2018 there were 1.25 million over-65s still working in the UK. This is an all-time high and up by 137% over the past 15 years, from just 527,000 in 2003.

Older people are staying in the workplace for a number of reasons, not least because the state pension age is on the rise. However, other reasons for the rising older workforce include:

  • A lack of financial security in terms of pensions and savings
  • A rising cost of living making retirement harder to afford
  • The dwindling availability of final salary pension schemes
  • Better health allowing people to work longer
  • The increasingly sedentary nature of work in the UK, meaning less physical exertion is required to undertake people’s daily jobs.

Adapting to an Ageing Workforce

Over-65s in the Workforce

The ageing workforce is creating some unique challenges for HR departments, which must adapt in a number of different ways.

1 :: Prepare for Career-Long Learning

If you start a career straight out of university at 21 and don’t retire until you’re 70, that’s nearly 50 years spent in the workplace. It goes without saying that this is an incredibly long time and the skills and experience an individual held when they first started the job are unlikely to still be relevant as they enter their fifth decade at work.

HR departments can combat this by offering training to allow older workers who may be less familiar with the latest technology, for instance, to get up to speed. This could be in the form of structured company learning days or as a training budget to spend on ‘upskilling’ the workforce.

Training budgets and other educational benefits aren’t just for older workers. Younger workers could also benefit from training and development in a wide variety of areas, leading to a better skilled workforce all round.

2 :: Embrace Flexible Working

Most permanent employees:

  • Have the right to apply for flexible working after 26 weeks on the job
  • Are entitled to put in a statutory application for flexible working once in any 12 month period for consideration

The request needs to be made in writing by the employee and the employer has 3 months to consider the request, giving a clear business reason if they turn down the application.

Flexible working is going to become more important as the workforce ages thanks to older people tending to have more health problems than younger people. Caring responsibilities, perhaps for elderly spouses or even grandchildren are going to become an issue, also.

Nadeem Farid Head of Employee Benefits at Drewberry

Flexible working might mean allowing reduced / compressed / staggered hours or home-based work for employees needing to take a step back from their job because of their health or the health of others.

This can allow older workers to stay in their jobs for longer, meaning you don’t lose valuable experience from the workplace.

Nadeem Farid
Head of Employee Benefits at Drewberry

3 :: Understand Phased Retirement

Not everyone is ready to hit retirement age and just stop working suddenly like they’ve hit a brick wall.

These people might feel more comfortable with:

  • Phased retirement – where they stop working gradually over time
  • Moving to part-time work
  • Job sharing with a colleague for a period
  • A gradual transitioning of their workload to other members of their team as they get ready to stop working.

Other people might leave their workplace altogether and go out and find a less demanding job or do some volunteering to bridge the gap between stopping work and retiring completely.

This will require workplaces to be willing to hire older workers looking to wind down, even if they aren’t going to be long-term hires. However, they likely have a multitude of skills and experience to bring to any such bridging job that it could be worth bringing them onboard even for the short-term.

4 :: (Re) Consider Employee Benefits

For those who do have health problems, an employee benefits package can be a godsend. Even a policy as simple as Death in Service Cover, which pays out in the event of an employee passing away, now comes with a range of added extras.

The most common are called employee assistance programs (EAPs), which can provide a wealth of benefits including:

  • Helplines
  • Counselling
  • Probate support
  • Rehabilitation services (which can include therapies such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy)
  • Remote GP services
  • Second medical opinion / Best Doctors service

EAPs are particularly useful for those with a health condition as the rehabilitation element can help them back into the workforce after an illness or injury, potentially allowing them to work for longer if that’s their goal.

Meanwhile, with waits at GP surgeries lengthening and older people needing more of GPs’ dwindling time, remote GP services could also prove a boon for the older generation.

Extending Policy Cease Age

If you already have an employee benefits program, it might be worth checking the policy cease age. This is typically set to state pension age (SPA), which will be different for each employee depending on how old they are.

If you have a number of older employees working past SPA, you might find that you end up with an employee benefits package that covers your younger workers but excludes your older employees. This could quite clearly seem unfair to your older workers!

martyn coates, employee benefits consultant at drewberry

Fixing your policy cease age at a set age rather than at SPA would mean everyone would be covered to exactly the same age.

However, this could work out more expensive if your chosen cease age is older than your employee’s SPA – it’s all about balancing your company’s budget with the needs of your workforce.

Martyn Coates
Employee Benefits Consultant at Drewberry

The greying workforce isn’t an issue that’s going to disappear. In 2017, Drewberry asked UK workers when they believed they’d be able to afford to retire. More than 1 in 10 UK expected to be 70+ – and 10.2% said they’d never be able to afford to retire at all.

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