Employers need to manage increasingly ageing workforce

The rising number of older workers means it is more important than ever for employers to effectively manage and support an increasingly ageing workforce.

In October, the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (ENEI) partnered Age Inclusive and The Positive Ageing Company to offer its employer members access to both organisations’ online tools, which aim to support the changing needs of ageing workforces.

Denise Keating, chief executive at ENEI, said: “The more progressive employers are looking at things such as intergenerational working and how different generations can best work together. If employers can create a healthy workplace, they can get people thinking in a different way from a very early age, so they can remain in the workplace and be healthier for longer.”

The Positive Ageing Company’s tool, AgeingWorks, provides age-related support on health, legal and financial issues. Chris Minett, managing director of The Positive Ageing Company, said: “Employers can provide staff with advice and support on how to better prepare for, and manage, the challenges that ageing will present to employees and their families.

“This could include tools and support to enable them to live healthily for longer and also to manage financial planning or care planning into later life. It is also about creating awareness and a framework to manage it effectively.”

The number of UK employees of state pension age and above almost doubled between 1993 and 2011, from 753,000 to 1.4 million, according to 2012 figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Law firm Squire Sanders published a white paper, In sickness and in health: reforming pensions and social care, in October, which addressed the funding challenges presented by an ageing population.

Catherine McKenna, leader of the pensions practice group at Squire Sanders, said: “Recognising that the population is ageing and people are working longer, the first thing is to engage employers with why this is an issue for them.

“Having established why it is of interest, there are all sorts of things we think employers can do, and certainly the enlightened employer is doing already, to bring this whole social care issue much more to the forefront.”

Squire Sanders’ report recommended that flexible benefits structures should be designed to allow for new care-saving options, and that pensions should be used to help fund long-term care. McKenna added: “It is on the agenda, but it is on a very long-term agenda. It’s been looked at as part of the insurance industry as opposed to the pensions industry.

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“When we started doing our research, and taking the government’s statistics, nearly half of the wealth in the UK is in pension schemes. Ignoring that wealth as part of this wider solution to meet a longer-term problem just seems to be naïve.

“Making pensions more flexible and part of the solution as to what you spend your pension on when you retire seems to us to be a pretty obvious connection, but one that isn’t really at the forefront of thinking at the moment.”