How can employers tailor benefits to suit ‘unretired’ employees?


Need to know:

  • As increasing numbers of ‘unretired’ employees return to work, flexibility is an important factor in order to remove potential barriers from day one.
  • Financial wellbeing may be a concern for many re-entering the workforce, while employers should consider the specific health issues facing older people.
  • Having a tailorable benefits package means employees can choose what works best according to their own needs.
  • Communication, both internal and external, should focus on the needs, and value, of a multigenerational workforce.

There has always been a cadre of people for whom full retirement is not quite the right fit, some for lifestyle reasons, others due to financial concerns. As working remotely and from home becomes more of a reality, there are going to be ever more people finding the freedom to work into their later years, while the rising cost of living is causing many to consider returning to employment to shore up their finances.

According to an Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey conducted in August, 72% of people in their 50s would consider going back to work having previously retired, compared with 58% who said so in February. The ONS also found that among those aged 50 and above, there had been a 116,000 increase in the number of people looking for work in the past year, with many citing the cost-of-living crisis as a reason for returning.

Employers may need to consider how they can best cater for a growing group of older, ‘unretired’ employees. A reward strategy that benefits unretired employees can be a way to maintain a relationship between them and their employer, so both parties feel they can call on each other.

Victoria Tomlinson, chief executive of Next-Up, which helps pre-retirement employees with workshops and an online platform, explains: “Too often, employers wave goodbye to their employees when they retire and miss out on the talent that could help them in so many areas of their business, such as mentoring younger generations, community ambassadors and projects using their specific expertise.”

Focus on flexibility

People return to work following an initial foray into retirement for a range of reasons, some positive, but some of which stem more from stressors such as financial concerns. As a result, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to considering their needs within a benefits strategy, and flexibility is key.

Flexible and voluntary benefits schemes, for example, can enable staff to tailor a package to suit their own requirements, which is useful when there are different age demographics across a workforce.

David Taylor, managing director of employee benefits at Punter Southall Aspire, says: “Consider voluntary benefits with an employer-paid allowance so that individuals can tailor the benefits package to suit them.

These could include life cover, critical illness, disability, vision and dental insurance, flexible working and financial planning support.

Designing and developing an employee value proposition is often a collaboration between recruitment and HR, and gathering insight from across the organisation, recent employee and candidate surveys, focus groups, and exit interviews are all useful to get more of a sense about how best to tailor benefits.

Self-serve portals with flexible benefits that can be chosen by each person make for a much more attractive package, as not all retirees, their lifestyles or their needs are the same, says Neil Armstrong, commercial director at Tribepad.

However, as a first step when ensuring they cater for this group of employees, organisations should consider that some benefits may have maximum entry or cover ages, so might not suit some of the unretired, or those still working past the state pension age.

Flexible workplace policies also play a key role in the recruitment and retention of older workers, including those returning to the workforce from retirement.

Offering flexible-working options from day one is essential, for example, as any requirement for roles to be full-time, or to delay the option for flexible work, can be a barrier for staff of all ages, according to Mary Bright, head of social affairs at Phoenix Group.

Financial concerns

Returning to work after retirement may represent a financial necessity rather than a choice, so having offerings in place to support these concerns and help employees with their finances will be important, says Hollie Nairn, client development lead at Buck.

“This also highlights the need for businesses to provide benefits that will prepare staff to save effectively for retirement and discuss their financial wellbeing throughout their working life,” she adds.

It is also worth remembering that this demographic may face different financial stressors than their younger counterparts. For example, they might have ageing parents to care for, in addition to younger family members that need support.

Unretired employees might, therefore, appreciate support and advice on arranging long-term care for a family member, or a policy of paid carers’ leave, which does not solely benefit new parents.

While this group of employees may be over the state pension age and drawing from their pot, they will still be able to contribute to a plan, so providing continuous guidance to help staff save can be crucial.

Financial wellbeing support, such as discount schemes, can help make returning employees’ money go further and provide better returns,” adds Nairn.

This should all play a part in a benefits package that factors in a wide range of financial and physical health supports, says Stuart Lewis, chief executive of Rest Less.

Flexible working practices are important to this demographic, as well as support to help people manage unpaid caring responsibilities, support with pension and finances, as well as overall health and wellbeing support,” he explains.

Holistic health

While physical and mental wellbeing are a focus point for many employers looking to create the best support systems for their staff, organisations should consider whether their healthcare    and wellbeing package caters for diverse age groups.

For example, Lewis says: “Menopause has been in the spotlight and more organisations are now evaluating how they can better support their menopausal employees.”

Meanwhile, options such as critical illness cover may be more relevant than group income protection for unretired staff, while education and support around musculoskeletal issues will likely be valued.

Value-added services that support accessibility to medical services, including virtual GPs or eldercare support services, are also worth considering, says Nairn.

“Cash plans are an efficient way of supporting those who may have chronic conditions and need to be helped through regular services, such as dental costs and NHS parking charges, which all come at a cost and add up,” she adds.

For this demographic, advice on age specific physical, mental and social wellbeing is worth looking into, says Taylor.

“In addition, any benefits relating to gender specific cancer covers may appeal, as well as standard benefits such as income protection, pension accumulation and life assurance could be valuable,” he explains.

Communicating benefits

When offering a tailored, flexible benefits package which caters for diverse needs, the communication strategy is an integral part of making sure all employees are able to get the best value. This communication may need to differ depending on age group, both in terms of how the benefits are framed, and the medium through which they are being promoted.

“However, it’s important not to make assumptions about this,” says Nairn. “Employees can be informed about different offerings in a way that is tailored to their needs and circumstances, for example integrating technology into the strategy that enables individuals to drill down into the detail to a level that suits their needs.

“When it comes down to financial wellbeing support, everyone is going to be different and offerings should be able to support people regardless of their financial objectives.”

So, while it might be worth thinking about some obvious differentiators, such as whether messaging centred around new parents or first-time homebuyers might disengage unretired employees, it is also key to avoid stereotypes where possible. Therefore, it is important to involve representatives of this demographic in discussions about which benefits are appropriate, adds Taylor.

Armstrong also points out that communication strategies are not just an internal affair, and recommends taking a careful look at the wording of job descriptions. The benefits of having an age-diverse workforce are well known, particularly as the war for talent intensifies, so external messaging should appeal to people returning to the world of work, as well as those just starting out.

“Words such as lively and dynamic may imply youthfulness,” he explains. “Not everyone in the unretired cohort will have a university degree, so question if that is really essential or if the skills and experience they have from decades in work are actually what you need. Keep them stimulated, they can help train and upskill less experienced or younger people. Show them you recognise their value.”

Opening the doors

Considering how to cater for a diverse group of people returning to the workforce after an absence has wider reaching benefits than just looking after the unretired cohort of employees. It can help open doors to other enriching avenues to talent, such as reintegrating parents.

“We see a lot of employers say how much they value mothers and parents coming back to work, and then it is almost impossible for them to fit in around nurseries,” explains Tomlinson. “If this is important, employers need to offer far more flexibility in the first few years.”

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Nairn adds: “Services that can provide ad-hoc childcare can not only help financially, but also reduce the anxiety around being able to balance work commitments with the possibility of needing emergency childcare. In addition, those with young families will be more interested in what protection benefits their employer can provide, further demonstrating the importance of ensuring your benefits strategy is accessible for all.”

As Bright concludes: “The right policies and supporting skills development throughout a working life show that employers appreciate the value of a multigenerational workforce, and that older workers are key to this.”