Aging workforce driving uptake of flexible working in UK firms

older UK workforce flexible workingA growing number of employers see flexible working arrangements as an important tool for meeting the needs of their aging workforce, according to a new report from insurance industry trade association Group Risk Development (GRiD). The report highlights how changing attitudes, demographics, longer life expectancy and the abolition of the UK’s Default Retirement Age three years ago have encouraged employers to look at how to foster the wellbeing and meet the needs of older employees. Over a quarter (27 percent) of the 500 UK businesses who took part in the study had introduced flexible working specifically to meet the needs of their ageing workforce and many (22 percent) of employers said dealing with an ageing workforce was among their top three wellbeing issues.

The report also highlights changing attitudes amongst the workforce. Of the 1000 people who took part in the research, 36 percent said they wanted to supplement their pension by continuing to work, whilst 22 percent said they would want to carry on working for enjoyment and routine regardless of their financial position. Of the employees asked how their needs will change as the UK workforce ages, 36 percent said they thought they would have to supplement their pension by continuing to work, while 22 percent said they would want to carry on working for enjoyment and routine regardless of their financial position.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • Since the abolishment of the Default Retirement Age in October 2011, 14 percent of employer respondents have introduced different working patterns, such as more frequent breaks, and 10 percent have brought in training for older workers to ensure they feel as up to speed as younger staff.
  • 11 percent of the employers questioned have seen an increase in absence rates due to an older workforce, while 20 percent have seen a rise in age-related conditions such as diabetes and arthritis.
  • 15 percent of employer respondents have refocused their health, wellbeing and absence initiatives in order to better manage older members of staff.
  • 35 percent of staff surveyed said they would have to save more to meet longer life expectancy. However, 20 percent said that in order to stay in work, they would need increasingly more health-related support and 24 percent felt they would need help staying fit and active.

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for Group Risk Development (GRiD), said: “It is reassuring to see employers introducing initiatives to support older workers, as these employees can bring another level of skill to a business that years of experience has given them. However, it is equally important to recognise the challenge that the resultant increase in absence rates and age-related conditions can have on a business. Employers have a central role to play in ensuring that not only their staff, but also their families are protected from the potentially life-changing impact that death or disability can bring, and Group Risk protection products can effectively manage this. These products also include additional support services which can be extremely effective in keeping people in the workplace, giving them the support they need to makes their lives better and achieving a sustainable return to work for those who have had to take time off.

“Whilst it’s encouraging to see that employers are adjusting their work environment, we still see a lot of employers who have not changed their benefit plans to accommodate older workers so it’s worth revisiting benefit provision to ensure that it fully reflects the business’s intentions around the needs of its ageing workforce.

“This is also about protecting businesses. To reap the benefits that older workers can bring, employers must address the possible challenges ahead and act now to ensure they have robust initiatives and benefits in place to ensure they can effectively manage the health and attendance of an older workforce when the time comes.”