Employers urged to support ‘sandwich generation’ of older workers 0

older workersOver a third (36 percent) of managers are unaware of anything their organisation does to attract, retain and engage older employees despite two-thirds (66 percent) believing the average age of retirement will increase in the next five to ten years. This is according to a new white paper from AXA PPP healthcare – Supporting fuller working lives – How organisations can embrace older employees and those with caring responsibilities. It warns that with the proportion of people aged 50 to 64 and aged 65+ in employment on the up (from 55 percent to 70 percent and from 5 percent to 10 percent, respectively, since 1984) and an estimate by Carers UK that nearly two-thirds of people are likely to end up caring for someone at some point in their lives. Yet the research claims that many businesses are not sufficiently adjusted to the changing nature of the workforce and not tuned in enough to helping workers who are often sandwiched between caring for older relatives and their offspring.

It claims that while employees feel supported by their employer regarding work responsibilities, they report feeling far less supported in maintaining their wellbeing and in their caring responsibilities for loved ones. Forty-four percent said they felt supported in meeting work deadlines compared with 29 per cent and 28 per cent who said they felt supported in managing workplace stress and maintaining their physical wellbeing, respectively.

Alarmingly, fewer than a quarter (23 percent) of employees said they felt supported by their employer with their responsibilities for caring for a loved one. This is perhaps unsurprising given that only 28 percent of managers said their organisation has formal policies and practices in place to support these employees.

Chris Horlick, Distribution Director for AXA PPP healthcare, comments: “The changing nature of older age and how work is performed, combined with the predicted increase in employees who have caring responsibilities, present opportunities for redefining the relationship between the state, employer and individual when it comes to managing health and wellbeing.

“Employers need to ensure that their procedures, policies and communications are geared up to meet the needs of the growing number of older workers and, in particular, that they support the so-called sandwich generation – those who may be responsible for caring both for elderly relatives and for children or grandchildren while working.”

The white paper builds on AXA PPP healthcare’s 2015 report Embracing the multi-generation workplace and sets out several recommendations about how employers can support employees as well as top tips for line managers.

Recommendations to employers:

  • Develop a strategy that includes health and wellbeing to enable employees to stay in work.
  • Foster a culture of inclusion – listen to employees’ needs and communicate the practical support available in a clear and consistent way.
  • Support employees with care giving responsibilities – for example, introduce an informal carer network to enable carers to connect with and support each other.
  • Ensure that specialist training is in place for line managers.
  • Make use of the services available to support employees’ health, such as occupational health services and employee assistance programmes for employee and manager support.

Tips for line managers:

  • Get to know your team – what motivates them? What are their career and life plans?
  • Keep in touch with employees – ask them what they need and how the business can support them.
  • Be aware of how the Equality Act 2010 applies – age is a protected characteristic meaning it’s unlawful to discriminate against someone based on their age.
  • Use the managerial support available, such as through your HR team, and let employees know about the support available to them too – this may include paid or unpaid time off, online support for carers and workplace health services.
  • Encourage the members of your team to mix and share knowledge.
  • Help employees connect with other carers in the workplace.