Why the over 50s are feeling neglected at work

03 October 2017 -

Older WorkerEmployers are urged to provide more support for older workers, as only one in seven say their workplace culture is positive towards them

Jermaine Haughton

The latest Real Retirement Report from Aviva has revealed more than five million workers over the age of 50 are concerned that health issues will prevent them from prolonging their working lives.

Examining data from 3,327 UK adults aged 50 and over, of whom 1,829 are still working, the research found half of respondents (55%) admit to fearing that work will become detrimental to their health or they might not be well enough to keep working. This includes 13% who believe this is already an issue for them.

Furthermore, many older employees do not feel employers are providing adequate support to their health and wellbeing (if at all), the study suggests.

Only 17% of over-50s say they have access to wellbeing advice and initiatives in the workplace, which could help prevent health issues from impacting their careers.  

This is despite employers increasingly taking the wellbeing of their staff  more seriously, following a series of research studies that show that employees who are frequently unhappy or unwell at work have lower engagement, productivity and performance rates.  

Beyond just your physical condition, health and wellbeing typically centres around how well you feel mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually about yourself, your job and your working environment. Are your employees happy at work? Do they feel fulfilled and proud of the work they produce? Do they feel comfortable discussing their physical and mental ailments with managers?

Workplace culture consultancy firm Great Place to Work’s study showed that the best organisations achieve high levels of wellbeing through three elements of the employee contract: a values-driven culture, wellness benefits and programmes and the physical work environment.

The combination of health concerns and the lack of employer support on staff health is likely to detrimentally affect the plans of many older employees to work past the retirement age.

While Aviva’s research suggests the average over-50 male and female worker expects to retire completely at 66, nearly one in four (23%) plan to work beyond 70 and 13% do not expect to ever retire fully.

Nearly half (48%) now expect to work past the age of 65 (the former Default Retirement Age), but two in five (41%) don’t know when they’ll be able to retire fully.

Those retiring later than planned are partly doing so out of financial necessity. Two in five (43%) do not have enough in their pension savings to retire when they wanted to and 32% say the cost of living means they cannot afford to stop working.

However, a third (34%) choose to keep working as they enjoy the mental stimulation of their job and more than one in four (27%) would be lonely without the social interaction.

Lindsey Rix, managing director, savings and retirement at Aviva, advised employers to proactively develop strategies to support the health of mature employees who want to delay their retirement.

“One of the primary concerns people have about working beyond their 50s is the impact this could have on their health, or whether any health concerns might prevent them from working,” she said. “Although it’s hard to predict what the future might bring, having access to health and wellbeing support in the workplace can help minimise the impact health problems have on people’s ability to work.

“Flexible working options and reduced responsibilities are also a way of ensuring those with developing health concerns can remain in the workforce.”

Employer Support, Flexible Working, Positivity

Shockingly, only 14% feel their workplace culture is positive towards older workers, suggesting a lack of employer support, and more than a quarter (27%) say their employer values the youth and vitality of younger employees above their experience and knowledge, while one in five (19%) say their employer’s views on older workers limit their future work prospects.

Almost one in four (22%) over-50s workers – or 2.2 million people – worry their jobs won’t suit their needs as long as they need it to. This could partly be due to a lack of appropriate workplace support for older workers.

Researchers say the most important forms of workplace support for workers over the age of 50 are a positive workplace culture for older workers (valued by 47%), reduced working hours or part-time working/job sharing (33%) and career flexibility such as reduced responsibilities or a job description change (29%).

Not all over-50s workers are currently able to access these forms of support, however, with just 11% able to negotiate career flexibility.

“Negative employer views towards older workers are a real roadblock to over-50s’ careers, and need to be stamped out as quickly as possible,” Rix said. “Employers must recognise that over-50s bring with them a wealth of valuable knowledge, skills and experience that would be an asset to any business.

“Workers who feel undervalued at work on the basis of their age should therefore feel safe to speak up and voice their concerns. All older workers should have the opportunity to support both their financial and personal wellbeing through work.”

Find out more about how you can better support all members of your workforce at Management Direct

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