Ageing workforce health issues to impact UK business

Article date: 17 September 2012

  • 29% of employers are already seeing a rise in the average age of employees
  • 37% of employers expect to see their workforce get older in the future
  • 38% believe that ageing workforce health issues will impact their company

Aviva’s annual Health of the Workplace1 report reveals that companies are already starting to see a change in their workforce demographics, prompting fears that ageing workforce health issues will affect their company.

The removal of the Default Retirement Age, increased longevity and continued financial pressures on the over 55s2 mean nearly a third (29%) of employers are already seeing a rise in the average age of their workforce, while 37% expect to see it get older in the future. And although half (50%) of employers believe there are positive benefits for individuals working past the traditional retirement age, nearly two fifths (38%) predict that health issues associated with an ageing workforce will impact their business.

A quarter (24%) of employers are concerned that an increase in the numbers of older employees will see sickness absence rates rise. A similar proportion of employers (26%) were concerned that older employees would be absent with more serious conditions than their younger colleagues. Not surprisingly, nearly three-quarters (70%) of employers believe that health issues in the workplace will increase because older employees suffer from different medical complications to younger employees.

Embracing this change in the age of their workforce and recognising the need to review the support and benefits they offer older workers, a third (29%) of employers said they would need to offer different health advice. One in five (18%) said they would need to offer different health benefits and a quarter (23%) of employers said they would need training to help spot signs of serious illness, such as dementia. Over a third (36%) realised they may need to introduce flexible working hours for older employees.

The report also reveals that employees’ requirements change with age and as a result, so do the benefits that they value. Over a third (35%) of employees over 55 said that having access to benefits such as private medical insurance could help them stay healthy, compared to a fifth (22%) of 25-34 year-old employees.

While a small number of employees (14%) believe that people will exhaust themselves if they work past the traditional retirement age, two fifths (37%) believe there are health benefits to be had by keeping going and staying physically and mentally active in work.

With increased longevity, the report also considers the extent to which employees require time off work to care for elderly relatives. A third of employees (32%) surveyed have requested time off for this purpose, with only 8% saying they were able to take as much time as they needed and 13% saying they were either refused time off or had to take unpaid leave. A fifth (21%) of employers admitted they do not allow employees time off to care for elderly relatives.

Dr Doug Wright, medical director for Aviva UK Health says: “Life expectancy has been increasing for some time now and we are clearly seeing more people working past the traditional retirement age to meet their financial commitments or to help keep themselves fit and active. With that, employers are undoubtedly going to see some employees with conditions that are more common in older people, such as certain forms of cancer and cardiovascular disorders.

“It’s encouraging to see from our report that employers recognise the role they hold in helping to keep their employees healthy - and in particular the need to adapt the support and benefits they offer to suit the differing healthcare needs of an older workforce.”

Aviva offers a range of tailored healthcare solutions for private and corporate customers, including our Solutions private medical insurance which enables corporate customers to tailor their benefits to the changing needs of their workforce. Aviva’s policies also include benefits designed to help customers lead a healthy lifestyle.

1 Aviva’s Health of the Workplace report is an annual research study of 1,000 UK employers and 1,000 employees. It examines workplace wellbeing and the current issues affecting companies and their employees. The research was conducted by independent research company One Poll in August 2012.

2 Aviva’s Real Retirement Report, July 2012 found that older people still in employment (ie those older than the state pension age) has increased from 7.6% in 1993 to 12% in 2011. There are various reasons for this, such as the default retirement age, better health, and of course financial pressures.


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Notes to editors:

Aviva provides insurance, savings and investment products to 43 million customers worldwide.
We are the UK’s largest insurer with over 14 million customers and one of Europe’s leading providers of life and general insurance. We combine strong life insurance, general insurance and asset management businesses under one powerful brand. We are committed to serving our customers well in order to build a stronger, sustainable business, which makes a positive contribution to society, and for which our people are proud to work.
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