Whilst I am more than happy to agree with the positive rhetoric that accompanied the announcement of record numbers of over 50s in the workplace recently, this is far from positive news for everybody.
ONS confirmed that since 1992 there has been a 42% rise in the number of over 50s per 1,000 employees in the workplace. In terms of predicting which direction this trend will take in the future, it’s important to note that the removal of the default retirement age was only in 2011. The long term effects of this legislation are not yet known but reports suggest the number of working over 65 alone has gone up by a third. My belief is that these reported numbers are likely to increase at a faster pace for some time to come.
There will always be positive aspects of working life, but there are accompanying stresses, formalities and physical or mental demands that most people at some point would rather do without. I absolutely acknowledge the value of the skills and knowledge of the over 50s but do so with an awareness of the inevitability of the human condition. People are better prepared to start retirement when they have a plan which involves a lifestyle that is affordable, retaining the positive elements of working life and removing the negatives.
I know from talking to employers that an ageing workforce can be a real cause for concern too. Perhaps the stereotypes of older employees who have more absence or who fail to embrace change because ‘this didn’t work the last time we tried’ are unfair. However, workforce stagnation, where younger employees have no possibility of progression, is becoming a very real threat.
The takeaway here is that I would actively encourage employers to have a retirement policy, capturing how the business supports employees to prepare for a life after work. Many employers don’t. Possibly they have never got round to it, but others I know have avoided this because of age discrimination concerns.
The retirement policies that are in place tend to focus on how to handle staff at the point of retirement rather than a career-long strategy which includes reference to pensions, financial education and considerations of the wider retirement picture. The latter would help employees get on the right track sooner rather than later and open up a dialogue between the employee and employer, leading to a much better understanding between the two.
Wanting to work, whether you’re 50 plus or 70 plus, and being able to, can only be good news. Having to, is a different matter.