Business must improve support for over-50s workforce, finds study

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More than half of over-50s feel unsupported at work although millions of employees are planning to work longer than they had previously expected and despite the emergence of a widening skills gap in the UK, according to new research.

The study, by insurance giant Aviva, revealed that almost two-thirds of over-50s in work, 6.4 million people (out of 10.2 million), were planning to retire later than they expected to a decade ago.

A rise in the number of over-50s in the workforce of 20% since 2012 made it imperative that companies became more supportive of older workers, the report stated.

Many of the 5,000 older workers surveyed said they were planning to extend their working lives because of the rising cost of living (40%) and insufficient pension savings (38%).

Despite fears over lack of support and a financially bleak retirement, the study reported that those aged 50 and over were more confident about their ability to keep up at work (41%) and their relevant skillset (37%) than their younger counterparts (36% and 33% for those aged between 25 to 34).

By 2030, it is estimated half of all adults in the UK will be over 50.

The survey found that the only measure of support that had genuinely improved since 2012 was the number of older workers offered the possibility of reduced hours and flexible working. This stood at 10% in 2012 but has increased to 14%.

Other indicators, such as the provision of independent financial advice and workshops on retirement finances, showed small improvements of a percentage point or two − which Aviva’s report described as “static”. For example, only 6% of employees had access to a dedicated member of staff qualified to discuss retirement issues, the study found, compared with 5% in 2012.

“By failing to support their staff,” Aviva’s report states, “employers risk creating a disheartened and discouraged over-50s workforce.”

The state pension age is set to rise to 68 by 2037 as people live longer.

Lindsey Rix, managing director of savings and retirement at Aviva said staff needed “fulfilling careers regardless of their age”.

Co-op, Boots, Barclays and Aviva are among the businesses that last year promised to increase the number of over-50s they employed by 12% before 2022, partly through “silver quotas”. However, Aviva’s research suggests progress has been slow in terms of the support UK companies are offering the older generation.

“Our findings suggest that older employees have a lot to offer at work, despite the challenges they face around workplace support. To make the most of this, employers need to provide rounded support for this generation where their well-being and work-related needs are considered alongside the financial challenge of saving for retirement.”

Today’s CIPD report on the fall in the number of suitable candidates applying for many jobs adds urgency to the need for organisations to adopt more older-worker-friendly policies.

The pensions and retirement landscape has changed considerably in recent years since the Default Retirement Age was abolished in 2011 with the state pension age being under regular review and currently set to rise to 68 by 2037.

Businesses have faced regular calls by charities and from the government to increase support for older employees in recent years as evidence emerged last year that the UK was lagging behind other countries when it came to harnessing the skills of older workers.

How employers can support the growing band of older workers

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