Over the last 30 years, the shape of the UK workforce has changed significantly. One undeniable trend is that people are working longer. The number of people working past retirement age has almost doubled in the last 20 years. According to the Office for National Statistics those working past state pension age, 65 for men and 61 for women, are more than twice as likely to be working part time as the general population. There are now more than 1.4 million workers in employment beyond retirement age and over 60% of these are women.

Reasons Behind the UK’s Ageing Workforce

There several reasons behind the ageing UK workforce. Many people’s pensions are simply inadequate, failing to give them the financial security they’d hoped for in retirement. Life expectancy is increasing through better awareness of health and fitness plus advances in medical science, meaning people are physically able to work for longer. The baby boomer generation, who are now in their early 60s, still feel young at heart and many don’t feel ready to be put out to grass just yet. ONS notes that many older men are employed in higher skilled occupations at director level, where the retirement offerings are likely to be higher than average, indicating that they are choosing to work for reasons other than financial ones.

People Expect to be Working for a Longer Proportion of Their Lives

While employees no longer expect to be with the same company for life, there is also an expectation that they will be working long past 65. In an ICM survey commissioned by the Guardian on behalf of Unum in 2011, 20% of employees didn’t expect to retire until they were over 70. This is a realistic view as many commentators conclude that without further rises in the state pension age, Britain’s gross domestic product will be reduced significantly. This is because the percentage of the UK population over 65 is rising much faster than those aged 16 to 64, who make up the traditional workforce. Unless older workers stay in employment, there will be significantly fewer employees paying taxes to support those in retirement.

Your Older Employees Are Valuable

Despite a baby boom in the last few years, older workers will be making up a greater percentage of the workforce in the future. It’s important that employers recognise this fact and put provisions in place to deal with their needs. This means that different employee benefits may be required. For example, while in general people are staying healthier for longer, the risk of serious illness does increase as you get older, so an integrated health and wellbeing programme for staff becomes more important to deal with this ageing workforce.

Employers need to think differently going forward, as the UK workforce ages, companies need to value what those in their 60s can bring to the workplace.

The Ageing UK Workforce An infographic by the team at Unum UK

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