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Employers back flexible working to support ageing workforce

07 January 2015

More than a quarter of employers (27%) have introduced flexible working initiatives to meet the needs of their ageing workforce, new research from Group Risk Development (GRiD), the trade body for the group risk industry, has found.

Since the abolishment of the Default Retirement Age, most employers are looking at ways to accommodate older members of staff and keep their business running smoothly, with 19% modifying roles and 16% changing procedures to ensure the needs of older workers are met.
A further 14% have introduced different working patterns, such as more frequent breaks, and 10% have bought in training for older workers to ensure they feel as up to speed as younger staff.
Of the employers questioned, 11% have seen an increase in absence rates due to an older workforce, while 20% have seen a rise in age-related conditions such as diabetes and arthritis – though 15% have refocused their health, wellbeing and absence initiatives in order to better manage these members of staff. 59% have not yet seen any change in absence rates whatsoever, even though the average age of their workforce has increased.
When asked what their priorities around health and wellbeing were, 22% of employers said dealing with an ageing workforce was among their top three.
Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for Group Risk Development (GRiD), said: "It is reassuring to see employers introducing initiatives to support older workers, as these employees can bring another level of skill to a business that years of experience has given them. However, it is equally important to recognise the challenge that the resultant increase in absence rates and age-related conditions can have on a business.
"Employers have a central role to play in ensuring that not only their staff, but also their families are protected from the potentially life-changing impact that death or disability can bring, and Group Risk protection products can effectively manage this. These products also include additional support services which can be extremely effective in keeping people in the workplace, giving them the support they need to makes their lives better and achieving a sustainable return to work for those who have had to take time off.
"Whilst it's encouraging to see that employers are adjusting their work environment, we still see a lot of employers who have not changed their benefit plans to accommodate older workers so it's worth revisiting benefit provision to ensure that it fully reflects the business's intentions around the needs of its ageing workforce.
"This is also about protecting businesses. To reap the benefits that older workers can bring, employers must address the possible challenges ahead and act now to ensure they have robust initiatives and benefits in place to ensure they can effectively manage the health and attendance of an older workforce when the time comes.”
Of the employees asked how their needs will change as the UK workforce ages, 36% said they thought they would have to supplement their pension by continuing to work, whilst 22% said they would want to carry on working for enjoyment and routine regardless of their financial position. A further 35% admitted they would have to save more to meet longer life expectancy. However, 20% said that in order to stay in work, they would need increasingly more health-related support and 24% felt they would need help staying fit and active.