21 Feb 2019
Employers are not properly supporting older workers with health conditions, and poor culture and bureaucratic procedures often put many people off speaking to their employers until a crisis point.
Ageing Better's new report, ‘Health warning for employers: supporting older workers with health conditions’, shows that employers are not properly supporting older workers experiencing long-term physical and mental health conditions.
Health is the most important factor affecting older workers’ decisions to stop working before reaching state pension age. Ageing Better’s research finds that early access to support, small adjustments to the workplace and working patterns and empathetic management are crucial to enabling people to manage their health at work and remain in employment.
A survey of over 1,000 people shows one quarter of people aged 55 and over with a health condition who are still in work are considering leaving because of their health. The research also found that workers are often put off speaking to employers until the last moment due to poor workplace culture and overly bureaucratic procedures.
According to Public Health England, 40% of the working age population will have a long-term health condition by 2030. Older workers are more likely to have long-term health conditions such as musculoskeletal disorders, heart problems or chronic breathing difficulties. While 25% of 25-49 year olds have a long-term health condition, this figure rises dramatically to 44% of those aged 50-64. They are also more likely to have multiple conditions: 23% of 50-64 year olds report that they are managing two or more long-term health conditions.
The early exit of older workers from the workplace has significant implications for employers struggling to recruit and retain skilled workers. Other research also suggests that halving the employment gap between people aged 50-65 and those in their 40s could boost GDP by 1% (around £20 billion pa).
The report identifies significant opportunities to improve workplace-based prevention and management, especially of slow-onset, long-term conditions. Recommendations include:
Report author Jemma Mouland, Senior Programme Manager – Innovation at the Centre for Ageing Better, commented:
“Our research shows that significant numbers of people are missing out on the benefits of good work in later life because of health conditions. Falling out of work involuntarily leads to significant long-term problems, including loss of income and retirement savings, weakening social connections, and a diminished sense of purpose.
“Government and employers can do more to improve workplace-based prevention and management of health conditions. Many of these adjustments are small and inexpensive, but can provide a huge benefit to people who want to continue working in later life.”