Ros Altmann: How can employers support staff with later life care costs?

Ros Altmann

Employers could help staff with later life care costs. Employers offer employee benefits packages including pensions, life insurance, health and ill-health cover, but there is no specific benefit that recognises requirements for later life care. And people will need help not only for their own care, but perhaps for their family too.

As life expectancy increases, numbers of older people needing care will rise sharply. This is a foreseeable fact of life in the 21st century.

Yet, across the UK, there has been no preparation to cover such costs, neither at public nor private sector levels. So when care needs arise, individuals or their families suddenly have to find money.

Increasing numbers of staff suddenly face responsibilities for parents or partners who can no longer live independently. This causes stress, financial worries, and can also lead to premature retirement as staff, particularly older women, feel forced to leave work to care for relatives.

Employers help their staff with many other life events, so why not with care? There are ways in which this can be addressed, both with practical and financial help.

Providing information and guidance on how the care system works and how to find reliable, good-quality care are all important, as well as perhaps staff networks or support groups. Offering temporary care leave to allow staff to organise care could ensure staff retention, loyalty, and practical help.

Facilitating savings or investments, as well as access to financial advice to plan how to pay for care, can all improve financial preparation for later life care.

Some flexible benefits packages offer individual savings accounts (Isas). These could be adapted, especially for staff who have already maximised their pension savings, to provide a product for workers to build a nest-egg earmarked for care costs: a ‘Care’ Isa.

Many employers have provided childcare vouchers. What about introducing eldercare vouchers along similar lines that will pay for approved adult care provision? Many older people have more than one child, so siblings could each save towards their parents’ care if needed so that the burden does not have to fall on just one person.

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Later life care is not just about frail, elderly people. It is about families and loved ones. Our country has not prepared for care costs and employers could play an important role in facilitating this.

Baroness Ros Altmann, CBE, is an independent expert on pensions, savings, retirement, and later life policy and former minister of state for pensions (2015-2016)