More people than ever plan to work past 65 but health fears remain

According to ONS statistics, nearly three quarters (71 percent), or 23 million UK based employees, plan to work beyond the age of 65, but two in five of these (41 percent) – equivalent to 9.5 million workers – are concerned their health will make it difficult to do so, according to new research from Canada Life Group Insurance. Over a quarter (27 percent) of UK employees think their boss views older workers as a ‘hassle’ because of these possible health struggles. This highlights the potential for poor health to act as a barrier to employment and retention of older workers. Employees also believe their boss perceives older workers as stuck in their ways (30 percent) and technologically inept (30 percent). Among the biggest concerns of those intending to work beyond the age of 65 is that they will be treated differently because their boss or colleagues perceive them as being ‘old’.

Despite these negative perceptions, a significant proportion of employees recognise the tangible benefits that older workers bring to the workplace. Three in ten (28 percent) UK workers believe that a mix of older and younger workers is desirable because it creates a wider range of skills in the workforce. Meanwhile, two in five say that their employer values the experience (43 percent) and loyalty (40 percent) of older workers. Demonstrating the latter, among survey respondents aged 55 and above, almost two thirds (62 percent) have been with their employer for 10 years or more. A third of UK employees also (32 percent) acknowledge that older workers help younger staff by coaching and mentoring them.

The UK’s ageing population means that the number of older workers in the country is set to increase in the coming years, providing employers with the opportunity to tap into the value of this underused talent pool. For example, if half a million keen and able older workers who are currently out of work returned to employment, the UK’s GDP would increase by £25 billion per year.


Employers risk losing valuable older workers to high-stress jobs

Employers have a duty of care towards older workers, particularly as a majority (68 percent) of those planning to work beyond 65 intend to stay in the same job. However, some employers could lose out on retaining valuable older workers because they do not do enough to support employee health. Among the 14 percent planning to switch jobs when working beyond the age of 65, a fifth say it is because their current job is either too physically demanding (22 percent) or too stressful (20 percent).

Employers keen to retain older workers must address these issues, especially considering it costs an average of £30,000 to replace an employee. The research claims that flexible working (32 percent) and appropriate workplace benefits (16 percent) are the best ways to attract and support older workers and can help to resolve issues such as a stressful or excessive workload.


Leading better lives

The survey is published as the Government announces that a new council of specialists from across society, the UK Longevity Council, will advise how best to use innovations in technology, products and services to improve the lives of an ageing population. With the number of people aged over 65 set to nearly double to more than 20 million in under 50 years, the government’s Ageing Society Grand Challenge, which it claims will be a key part of its Industrial Strategy, is designed to ‘harness the power of innovation to meet the changing needs of an older society’. It also aims to ensure that people across the UK enjoy an extra 5 years of healthy and independent living by 2035, while narrowing the gap between the experience of the richest and the poorest.

The UK Longevity Council is intended to bring together business leaders, health experts and others from society to advise government on the steps we can take to help everyone lead better lives. The council will act as a forum for interactions and discussions between policy makers, industry, researchers and the public in the area of ageing, and will advise on:

  • how we can think differently about work, finances, housing, communities and health, and explore new technologies, products and services that will benefit and enrich our older population
  • what the government’s high-level priorities should be in relation to demographic change
  • supporting both local and international work to ensure the UK is a global leader and UK businesses can capitalise on global opportunities