We're living longer. On average men born in 2008-2010 will live to be 78, and women 82. If you were born in 2011, you'll live into your 90s. It means as employers and employees we have to rethink the whole idea of "being old". What, exactly, is "old" now?
Nationwide has seen an increase in employees staying on beyond 65. In fact, only 3% of adults expect to retire at 55. This resonates with wider UK figures. The recession has played its role, too. Of Nationwide's 17,000 employees, 16% are aged 50 or over, and 2% are over 60, that's around 350 people.
We've recently commissioned a survey which shows that working beyond the traditional retirement age is having a positive effect on the British workplace. The research also gives an insight into why people are working later in life.
41% of workers believe that they will not be financially secure in retirement, while 74% were concerned that their pension alone will not be enough for them to continue at their current level of personal spending.
Many of these people are still paying off mortgages and loans, a relatively new trend in our lives, others simply want to keep active and continue to learn. Businesses and the Government have therefore had to rethink the cut-off point for retirement. It's also important now more than ever, that businesses don't differentiate on the grounds of age. Work should be judged on merit, ability and experience.
Our research shows that older employees help increase levels of satisfaction among customers and play valuable roles in team output and morale. 68% of all UK adults think having a person over 60 in the work place has a positive impact and 80% believe those aged over 60 are excellent role models and mentors. Basically, they're a valuable part of the workforce.
Instead of thinking about age and retirement, businesses should consider an employee's changing needs. When do they wish to take retirement? Would they like to take reduced hours? Do they have changing workplace needs? Requests will differ from one individual to the next, so it requires flexibility from both sides.
We insist there are no new procedures to follow, or "gatekeeping" criteria to meet. Employment simply continues on the same terms and conditions as before.
Benefits such as private health insurance and illness cover, which some companies say are too expensive, stay in place. In fact, there were some surprising figures from our survey regarding sickness records at work. 45% of workers aged 55 and above have not taken sick leave over the past 12 months, compared to 36% of 18-24 year olds. The poll also shows that 35-44 year olds are the age group most likely to take a sick day because of a hangover (8%) compared to just 1% of people aged above 55.
We changed our employment policies long before the Government raised the retirement age, as we were reacting to what our employees wanted. We see employment of older people as a mutually beneficial arrangement. We continue to gain from the experience and skills that older people bring, while those same people are able to continue doing a valued job, with more choice over when they want to retire. Since 2011 there has been no retirement age whatsoever.
But that takes us back to the original question. What is "old"?
What do you think? Just because we're living longer, does that automatically mean we can work for longer?
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