I am getting old. Well, older. That has become apparent in the past few weeks as I needed shoulder surgery and am now recuperating and trying to get the use of my arm back.
Old(er) age comes to all of us though, and as a society we are getting older. It’s claimed by some that the first person who’s going to live to 150 is already alive today. That is exciting and frightening in equal measure. Imagine the changes to the world that they will witness – but what will their quality of life be like in the second half of their existence?
One of the consequences of an aging population is an aging workforce. With the removal of the default retirement age and the increase in when people can access their state pension, the generally accepted view is that we are all going to be working longer. But businesses appear to be unprepared for this.
Aviva’s Working Lives report, which came out last month, found that among large businesses less than half have plans in place should employees start retiring later – and this fell to 14% for small and medium businesses. The report also found that less than half of employers have plans to bring in flexible workplace benefits because of an aging workforce and only 16% of businesses said they already provide these types of benefits.
But there is evidence that people at different stages of their life value different benefits. For almost all age groups, the Working Lives report found that health insurance featured in people’s top three most valued benefits. Interestingly, group life insurance doesn’t start to feature until the age groups 45-54 and 55-64. Perhaps unsurprisingly, company bonus and company pension schemes were the most popular benefits available.
The report did deliver some good news about the provision of workplace benefits overall though. One in five employers said they are going to increase their benefit spend in 2016 and the number of employers offering additional benefits beyond a basic salary has risen in the last three years.
Working longer and retiring later often appear to be entirely negative concepts, but that isn’t necessarily the case. The report found that one in five employees over 50 are intending to work longer than they planned because they still enjoy work and feel they have a lot to offer. And a higher proportion of employees aged over 65 said they feel valued by their employer compared to any other age group.
Overall, it appears there is a lot of work to be done to prepare businesses for the reality of the changing landscape of their workforce. Reduced pension saving levels and increased life expectancy are both going to contribute to more people staying in work for longer. If employers can adapt to that change, then that could lead to huge economic benefits. Older workers have skills and experience that are invaluable, so keeping them happy, healthy and engaged in the workplace will be vital in the future.
Steve Bridger is Managing Director of Group Protection at Aviva UK Health