Action is needed now to ensure workplaces are fit for our increasingly ageing workforce. Rachael Saunders, Age at Work Director, Business in the Community calls for business to review policies to ensure intergenerational workplaces are fit for purpose and flexible working is embedded into the organisations culture.
This week Nationwide has published the results of a survey on the lives of people in their 70s. Amongst the findings were that a third of 70-something respondents to the survey still work, and that their annual income was £21,617. However, a third wished they had saved more money for a rainy day and a quarter were concerned about paying the bills each month.
We know the UK population is ageing; 10 million people in the UK are over 65 and this number is expected to rise to 19 million by 2050. This means that we will all need to work for longer – and it is inevitable that the state pension age will continue to rise. Business in the Community research also found that 1.1 million people are already working beyond state pension age; this number will increase, and business needs to adapt now to prepare for the change to come.
“ As more of us choose or need to work in later life, employers will need to accommodate them to ensure they can attract and retain older workers and fill the looming jobs gaps. ”
In our Missing Million study, only 0.2% of over-70s who were unemployed said they wanted to return to work. This suggests that those 70-somethings who are working may be doing so out of financial necessity, rather than because they choose to. So how can employers ensure their 70-something employees are in fulfilling roles that make the most of their skills?
Our research found that 18% of people over 70 who worked wanted to work fewer hours, whilst 9% would work shorter hours for less pay. This implies they may be locked into longer hours against their will. Without additional flexibility – for example, to manage chronic health conditions and/or caring responsibilities – they may leave their job and the workforce altogether, meaning employers and individuals lose out. For this reason, we would strongly encourage employers to enable employees to adopt flexible working from day one. This will support employees to work longer and to balance their jobs with their personal lives, whilst ensuring employers retain talent.
Whilst older workers’ knowledge and experience can bring huge benefits to employers, it is too often assumed they can’t or don’t want to learn new skills. Yet ensuring older workers have the right skills for the modern workplace can help them to stay in work for longer. Employers should ensure their training and development programmes fit the needs of an intergenerational workforce, including monitoring training uptake by age, engaging employees of all ages in discussions about career progression and proactively offering training to fill employees’ skills gaps, as well as being open to additional training requests. Line managers should also be offered training and guidance to help them manage and support the careers of their team members at all ages and life stages.
The over-70s who are in work today are pioneers. As more of us choose or need to work in later life, employers will need to accommodate them to ensure they can attract and retain older workers and fill the looming jobs gaps. By taking action now to increase access to flexible working options, support employees to meet caring responsibilities and manage their health, and enable them to gain the skills needed for a changing working world, they will lay the foundations of providing stable employment for the next cohort to come through the ranks – and see the benefits in their bottom line.