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Inclusivity & Wellbeing in the Workplace Q1 2024

Strategies for employers to navigate the ageing workforce

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Debi O’Donovan

Director, Reward & Employee Benefits Association

Proactive HR strategies are crucial to tackle challenges posed by an ageing workforce. Insights reveal essential actions for workplace inclusion.

The Reward and Employee Benefits Association (REBA) has found that most larger employers are aware they need to put in place human resources strategies to mitigate any risks associated with the rising average age of their workforces.

Ageing population impact on workplace

To date, few have taken action, according to the Association’s ‘Longer working lives: the future of people strategies’ research published in partnership with Mercer Marsh Benefits in February 2024.

Such action should not be delayed. The UK Census 2021 results show that the number of people in England and Wales aged 65 and over increased from 9.2 million in 2011 to over 11 million in 2021, and the proportion of people aged 65 and over rose from 16.4% to 18.6%.

This ongoing demographic shift is playing through into workplaces. This means that as employees work to older ages, there will be growing cohorts dealing with long-term chronic conditions such as cancer, various disabilities or caring responsibilities.

Not preparing for age demographic
change will unsettle business continuity.

Inadequate inclusion for ageing workforces

Across several data insight reports, REBA observes very few employers incorporating inclusive measures for older employees within their wellbeing programmes. This is despite awareness that it will help them keep more productive talent as people work into their 60s and 70s and employers struggle to fill roles.

Challenges and opportunities in workplace inclusion

In 2023, REBA produced its first ‘Disability in the workplace’ report in association with Bupa. The findings showed that while many disabled employees, and those living with long-term chronic illness, may have positive experiences at work, the majority feel that their career prospects are hampered by their disability, illness or condition.

A significant minority believe that employers could do more to support them. Yet, employers often struggle to develop a culture, benefits strategy and policies that support employees’ success at work and in their wider lives.

Not preparing for age demographic change will unsettle business continuity in the long run. Declining health, rising caring responsibilities and increasing insurance claims and absences mean that jobs may need to be redesigned, with working days or weeks reconsidered to become more flexible. Work might start to look quite different in the years to come, ultimately to the benefit of all ages.

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