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Workers want to ease into retirement

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New research from Penna Sanders & Sidney – now Penna – and the Employers Forum on Age (EFA) suggests that older employees are keen to extend their working lives – but only if employers respond to their changing needs.

"Generation Flex" indicates that 85 per cent of employees say their needs change throughout the life cycle of their careers – and 92 per cent believe their employers should tailor benefits and work arrangements to meet these needs. The research finds employers are strongly aware that the workforce is ageing and 79 per cent know their employees will have to stay in work longer than they might have wished to accumulate an adequate pension.

But it also finds companies are not yet matching this awareness with action to meet the changing needs of employees throughout their career life cycle. Less than a third (31 per cent) are taking steps to identify the needs of employees at different stages and just a third (33 per cent) are taking, or plan to take, action to address the needs of different age groups in the workplace.

Employees' views on retirement change at different stages in their career. 60 per cent of employees aged under 50 looked forward to retiring before their contractual retirement age, but only 48 per cent of employees aged over 50 wanted early exit.

Of those employees who said they were not prepared to work beyond retirement and into their 70s, more than three quarters (77 per cent) say they would change their minds about extending their working lives if they could work part-time or more flexibly. The most popular options included a shorter working week (80 per cent), part-time work (78 per cent) and benefits tailored to maximising pensions (84 per cent).

But few employees are willing to relinquish responsibility at work as they approach retirement age. 79 per cent wish to keep the same level of responsibility, suggesting a determination to continue contributing to the success of their company.

Sam Mercer, campaign director of the EFA, says: "The recent development of flexible retirement policies is a great example of employers beginning to develop age smart policies. 86 per cent of employers questioned for this research believe they can encourage employees to extend their working lives by offering more flexible working conditions, particularly around retirement. The Government has acknowledged that more flexibility is the solution to the impending pensions crisis but it needs to act now to change IR rules that make delivering flexibility difficult for employers."

Generation Flex also shows that age barriers in the workplace still exist, with employees stating they believe their career prospects become more limited at 49. Only six years ago research for Penna Sanders & Sidney (Ageism in Employment) found that employees were considered to be "over the hill" at 42.

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