Opinion  

Negative stereotypes of older workers persist

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UK employees have significant concerns about the impact of older workers on the UK workforce, according to research from Canada Life Group Insurance.

A third of employees (35 per cent) believe the most important issue will be the difficulty young people face moving up the career ladder, while a quarter (24 per cent) say older workers needing to retrain or learn new skills to stay in work is most important.

The perceived increase in difficulty for young people to progress is high in the mind of both younger and older workers, with a similar response rate from those aged 18-30 and those over 60 (38 and 40 per cent respectively).

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Workers in their 30’s were the least likely to see this issue as most important (29 per cent), but instead view retraining of older workers as the biggest issue (35 per cent).

It is unsurprising that older workers are more interested in the possibility of employers incentivising older workers to retire, given the direct relevance to their circumstances. Twice as many over-60’s than 18-30 year-olds rated this as the most important issue (23 and 12 per cent respectively).

This may hint at an expectation held by older workers of being incentivised to leave the workforce in future, or conversely may be concerned about coming under pressure from their employers to leave when the employee wants or needs to continue working.

Table 1: Which of these issues do you believe will be most important now that people are staying in work for longer?

 

All

18-30

31-40

41-50

51-60

Over-60

It will be harder for younger people to move up the career ladder

35%

38%

29%

38%

33%

40%

Older workers will have to re-train or learn new skills to stay in work

24%

26%

35%

21%

18%

17%

The working dynamic will be changed as older people have more health issues

21%

23%

22%

19%

23%

19%

Employers may choose to give staff incentives to retire

19%

12%

13%

21%

24%

23%

Other

1%

1%

1%

1%

1%

1%

Source: Canada Life Group Insurance

Negative views of older workers persist, despite offering a wider range of skills

Almost three in ten (29 per cent) employees agree there is a negative stereotype or stigma surrounding older workers, with an additional 23 per cent saying there is a lack of government support for these employees.

12 per cent said having older employees in the workplace creates more problems than benefits. However, there are benefits to keeping older staff:almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of employees acknowledge a mix of older and younger employees is beneficial since it creates a wider range of skills on offer.

Employees must consider their benefits offering to suit a range of ages

To support an older workforce, UK employees view flexible working as by far the most important benefit to be offered by employers (42 per cent), followed by more part-time opportunities (21 per cent), new skills training (15 per cent), employee support programmes (11 per cent) and workplace benefits (10 per cent).

Workplace benefits – particularly those aimed at protecting your income in case of ill-health, injury or death – are important at all stages of your career. These benefits become even more important as you get older due to the increasing risk of serious illness. When working past 65, 32 per cent see critical illness cover as the most important benefit, followed by life insurance (29 per cent) and income protection (24 per cent).

Yet 28 per cent of employees currently do not receive any workplace benefits, equivalent to 8.8 million people.