Chris Coyne: Should employers provide healthcare perks for older workers?

A quick look at the facts is interesting. In 1995 there were nine million people in the UK aged over 60; in 2030, just 19 years away, it is estimated there will be 13 million. And the trend continues for women to have children later in life. The abolition of the default retirement age means many workers will be forced to work longer. So what is the obvious conclusion for employers? We will all have an older workforce.

But traditional wisdom tells us ‘older people get sick more often’, so our ageing workers are likely to be off sick and this will increase our health and wellbeing costs. It is easy to see the temptation to reduce risk and cut benefits for these workers.

There are things employers can do to manage this risk. Prevention continues to be better than cure, and is one of the reasons we are living longer. Comprehensive employer-funded health screenings and early interventions will make increasing sense for all workers, regardless of age.

So might it make sense for the NHS to bear the treatment burden when they do get sick? Many diseases, especially cancer, have no respect for age, and we continue to insure younger staff against such high-cost episodes, so why not older staff too?

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The skills and knowledge that keep you competitive are increasingly going to rest with older workers. The combined cost of prevention and insurance begins to look like it could have a return.

– Chris Coyne, group head of reward at City and Guilds