Nationwide to keep skilled staff on until they reach 70

Nationwide wants to adopt a more flexible approach to retirement from
September.

The building society intends to allow staff to work until they are 70 under
new proposals aimed at retaining skilled and experienced staff.

Recent internal research showed that staff aged over 50 produced better
performance ratings than younger employees.

Earlier this year, the company found that 97.7 per cent of employees aged
over 50 were rated as good, excellent or exceptional, compared to 93.3 per cent
of those under 25. More than a quarter of older employees were rated as
excellent or exceptional.

Denise Walker, head of corporate personnel at Nationwide, said the main
sticking point with staff representatives over flexible retirement is the issue
of long-term sickness benefits.

Nationwide currently offers six months of occupational sick pay followed by
a further 18 months of prolonged sickness benefit at 75 per cent of full pay.

Walker said, "The cost of the scheme increases year-on-year and our
research has shown that although older workers are infrequently absent, they
are absent for longer periods."

Staff representatives proposed a sliding scale for sickness benefits, which
would mean prolonged sickness benefit would decrease as the employee gets
older. The building society is likely to agree to the proposal.

Walker also hopes the Government will introduce regulations allowing staff
to draw occupational pensions and salary from the same employer in the near
future (News, 3 July).

Nationwide’s diversity programme has already increased the number of staff
aged over 50 from under 1 per cent of the workforce in the early 1990s to 10.2
per cent now.

It removed the age bars from recruitment adverts and introduced employment
breaks which allow staff to leave the company and return again, with their
benefits counted as joined-up service.

It had to tackle high staff turnover of older people following the merger of
the Nationwide and Anglia building societies.

By Karen Higginbottom

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