Debi O’Donovan: Is HR ready for age management?

For some time now, the pensions and annuity industries have been all too aware of the potential impact of people living longer.

However, for many years industry, government and pensions trusts got their forward projections wrong. Once the longevity numbers were corrected, it has been (and still is) incredibly hard to adjust to this new world order.

So, I wonder, is HR equally head-in-the-sand about what is really going to happen as the workforce greys?

Some senior HR people may envisage themselves as already retired by the time the main problem hits, so are not bothering to grasp this nettle (among all the other nettles they currently face).

Some leading employers have already thought through the implications. They have strategies in place for their workforce planning to avoid job positions being blocked for years by staff unable to afford to retire. They are looking at flexible working and redesigning jobs so older workers can motor down if necessary.

We are hearing talk of how workplaces might need to change. Musculoskeletal problems are already a major cause of employee absence, and this will not reduce as we age. Illnesses that typically strike people in their 60s and 70s will become more common in the workplace. We are already seeing an uptick in dealing with cancer in the workplace, while the ravages of diabetes and heart disease will start to make themselves felt more strongly.

Although current wellness programmes cannot guarantee that, in the future, people will avoid these awful ailments while still needing to work, they are where employers need to focus to at least mitigate bad health in decades to come.

The other area that forward-thinking HR departments are getting their heads around is how many employees are caught between caring for both children and parents. The number caring for frail and elderly parents will certainly increase as we work into our late 60s and 70s.

This, along with getting pension contribution levels and investment choices correct presents a huge challenge to employers and their HR departments. But, for those who like to think big picture and design long-term solutions that will benefit dozens, hundreds or thousands of people, age management in the workplace might be a new area to develop.

Debi O’Donovan


Employee Benefits 

Twitter: @DebiODonovan