How inclusive workplaces can help more of us to prepare for retirement

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Mary Bright

June 07, 2022

3 mins read

Ill health, age discrimination or the wrong skillset are among the reasons why some of us are not confident of being able to work for as long as we would like. Employers can make a vital difference.

Work can provide us with a sense of financial security while also allowing us to build resources for the future. Yet almost a quarter (24%) of us are not confident that our work will enable us to meet our financial goals in retirement.

And for those of us planning to work after the age of 65 to meet our financial needs, confidence is still a problem. One-in-four people in this group are not confident in their ability to find work – and worry that ill-health, discrimination or the wrong skills will stop them from earning and saving what they need for later life.

Standard Life is part of Phoenix Group, this gives us access to the think thank Phoenix Insights. These findings are from the report, The Longer Lives Index: a crisis of confidence – produced by Phoenix Insights1.

The way many of us think about work is changing. The ability to adapt and refresh work-related skills will become important to enable career shifts and reinventions throughout a longer working life.

Yet the idea of working longer or shifting careers can pose significant challenges and uncertainty for many. Employers can make a vital difference by ensuring their policies and working environment are inclusive and support a multigenerational workplace.

Health concerns

Health concerns are by far the main reason stated for some people’s low level of work confidence. More than a quarter (27%) of people aged 25–75 are not confident about their future health enabling them to reach their future financial goals.

Three-in-10 people (close to 13 million people) say they suffer physical or mental health issues. Half of these people are affected by both.

People with mental health issues are less confident than those with physical issues. And people affected by both mental and physical health problems are least confident of all.

Generational and gender differences

Health concerns appear to vary somewhat depending on generation. For example, people aged 25–34 are significantly more concerned than older workers about their mental health becoming a barrier to continued work (25% vs. 8%).

Meanwhile, 45% of older workers think their physical health will become a barrier to continued employment.

Across all age groups, however, concerns about physical health vary a lot by income. Lower-income workers are more than twice as likely to say that their physical health will become a barrier to continued employment (43% of low income workers vs. 21% of high-income workers).

There are some generational differences in worries and confidence around work. Younger people (aged 25–34) worry relatively more about opportunities for career progression. Meanwhile, people aged 65–75 are more concerned with age-based discrimination at work.

There are also some gender differences in attitudes towards work and feelings of financial preparedness.

Men are more anxious about career progression and potential career shifts. Both men and women worry about physical health affecting their work, but for women this is the major reason for their lack of confidence2.

How employers can help

Employers can play a vital role in supporting an inclusive and multigenerational workplace. This can include taking the following steps:

  • Encourage flexible work from day-one
  • Promote ongoing skills and career progression for all
  • Address age bias in recruitment

To make work more accessible and support work-life flexibility, flexible working should be offered from day-one. Almost 80% of people aged 50-plus want to be able to work flexibly, according to a government survey of more than 12,000 workers aged over-50 . Providing more flexible working may therefore enable you to more effectively tap into an experienced talent pool.

Employers should also make it clear that people are welcome in their workplace regardless of age, and that training and other opportunities will be equally available to employees.

The further away we are from our original education qualification, the more likely we will need to refresh our skills. Yet too often training is focused on young workers .

If your workforce represents the average in the UK, it will be around 30% aged 50-plus.

Is this proportion reflected in the ages of people receiving training? If not, then bias is likely at work, either conscious or unconscious.

Some companies may also benefit from revising their talent recruitment strategies to ensure they attract talent and experience across generations. This means recruiting with appropriate language and imagery, with the right employment practices and policies. (See How to harness the benefits of older workers, to read more on this subject.)

In order to enjoy the opportunities that multigenerational workforces offer, we all have a responsibility to adapt and enable everyone to thrive at work.

1 The report is based on a new survey of approximately 16,500 people, aged over 25, who are not yet retired. It explores their expectations for and confidence in their financial wellbeing in later life, focused on five critical dimensions: savings; work and retirement age; housing; health; and financial support networks.

2 These differences in confidence among genders could be driven by two factors: genuine differences in circumstances and expectations or perceived differences of confidence among genders. This is documented at large in academic literature, which suggests that men are predisposed to report higher confidence than women irrespective of underlying factual differences.

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