Age UK sets example for benefits for the over-40s


In May, the charity Age UK launched a programme to help its 2,800 employees, two-thirds of whom are aged over 40, better plan their working lives and prepare for retirement.

Its Extending Working Life and Planning for Retirement programme includes midlife career reviews, health assessments , and financial and retirement-planning advice clinics. In terms of benefits it includes a generous contributory pension , flexible working and caring arrangements , a bikes-for-work scheme, health cash plan , discounted gym membership, employee assistance programme (EAP) and income protection, among others.

The charity made a conscious decision not to age restrict any of its benefits, explains Caroline Bendelow, people and performance director at Age UK. “The only area this has affected the cost is income protection . We may have to pay a bit more for the cover, but it is not a huge amount to pay for people who are important to us.”

Bendelow believes that, while employers will have to make their own decisions on this, this type of holistic proposition is going to become increasingly relevant for those wishing to manage, motivate, engage and retain an older working population.

“Because of who we are, we have to be exemplars about this. But I also believe a lot of organisations, a lot of commercial organisations, could learn from this,” says Bendelow.

She adds that the charity has already had interest from Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury’s about the programme.

Bendelow says: “One of the most significant things we’ve seen is the response from our midlife career reviews. These allow people to take some time out to think about their future – whether that’s to think about training they’d like, a different direction, their financial provision for the future, whether they’re paying enough into a pension and so on.

“For others, it’s just an opportunity to think about where they are and what they want to be doing. The earlier you can start planning and thinking about this, the better.”

But providing benefits, support and education needs to be just one part of the equation. Bendelow explains: “[We] can have the most amazing product, with all sorts of different elements, but it’s also critical that managers have the skills and confidence to have conversations about retirement, without the, ‘Oh, so you’re checking out’ respons