A quarter of people aged 55 or over with a health condition are considering leaving work, suggesting that employers are not providing enough support for them.
According to the Centre for Ageing Better, two in five people with a health condition have not received any support at work.
Its research, published in its Health warning for employers: supporting older workers with health conditions report, suggested that early access to support, empathetic management and small adjustments to working patterns and the working environment could all help enable people with a condition to remain in employment for longer.
Its survey of 1,000 employees also found that 44% of those aged 50-64 had a health condition, compared to 25% of 25-49-year-olds. Almost a quarter (23%) of 50-64-year-olds were managing two or more long-term conditions.
The report estimated that around 700,000 additional people will be classed as working age when the state pension age increases to 66 in 2019. If the proportion of people aged 65 or over who are unable to work matches that of 60-64-year-olds currently, approximately 90,000 additional people would be eligible to receive Employment and Support Allowance, it claimed.
Jemma Mouland, senior programme manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, suggested that significant numbers of older people were missing out on the benefits of work because of their health.
“Falling out of work involuntarily leads to significant long-term problems, including loss of income and retirement savings, weakening social connections, and a diminished sense of purpose.
“Government and employers can do more to improve workplace-based prevention and management of health conditions. Many of these adjustments are small and inexpensive, but can provide a huge benefit to people who want to continue working in later life,” she said.
Almost one in five (19%) of the survey respondents chose not to tell their employer about their condition. Almost a third (30%) of these were worried about their job security, and 29% said they were embarrassed about discussing their health at work.
The Centre for Ageing Better said employers needed to normalise conversations about health and encourage their staff to discuss their requirements with their managers. They should also ensure that employees with conditions were offered support such as flexible working arrangements and workplace adjustments.
It said the Government also had a role to play in assisting employees with health conditions. It recommended that it reviewed regulation and guidance, considered the needs of people with long-term and slow onset conditions, and promoted schemes such as Access to Work to keep people in employment.