Employers aware of ageing workforce health issues

More than a third of businesses believe that health issues arising from an ageing workforce will have an impact on their organisation, a survey by Aviva has found.

Its Annual Health of the Workplace report reveals that employers are already seeing a shift in the average age of employees in response to the removal of the default retirement age in October last year, an ageing population and increasing financial pressures on the over 55s.

Around 37 per cent are expecting to see its average office age rise further in the future.

Employers are seemingly sympathetic, with half believing that there are positive benefits for individuals working past the traditional retirement age, including helping them to keep fit and keep up with financial commitments.

However, nearly two fifths (38 per cent) are predicting that health issues associated with an ageing work force will impact their business, including concerns over a rise in sickness absence rates and absence from more serious conditions compared to younger employees.

Dr Doug Wright, medical director for Aviva UK Health says: "Employers are undoubtedly going to see some employees with conditions that are more common in older people, such as certain forms of cancer and cardiovascular disorders."

"It's encouraging to see from our report that employers recognise the role they hold in helping to keep their employees healthy - and in particular the need to adapt the support and benefits they offer to suit the differing healthcare needs of an older workforce."

As well as reviewing the support and benefits available to older workers, businesses are recognising the need to offer alternative health advice and introduce flexible working hours to accommodate older workers. They also said that training to help spot signs of serious illness such as dementia would also be beneficial.

Employee respondents in the survey agreed that alternative benefits such as private medical insurance would appeal more to them as they get older.

Elsewhere, the report looked into other impacts of longevity including the extent to which employees will require time off to care for elderly relatives. A third of respondents said they had requested time off because of this, with eight per cent saying they could not take as much time of as they wanted and 13 per cent saying they were refused time off or had to take unpaid leave.

A fifth of businesses said that they do not allow employees time off to care for elderly relatives.

Aviva advised businesses to review their workplace policy regarding older workers and put provisions in place for increased longevity in the future.