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Negative stereotypes of older workers persist, with career blocking and lack of skills major concerns

  • 29% of workers agree negative stereotypes linger for older workers
  • Preventing career progression and outdated skill-sets are key areas of concern
  • Flexible working and health benefits needed to support older workforce
  • 28%, or 8.8 million employees, receive no workplace benefits

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%) believe the most important issue will be the difficulty young people face moving up the career ladder, while a quarter (24%) 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% respectively). Workers in their 30’s were the least likely to see this issue as most important (29%), but instead view retraining of older workers as the biggest issue (35%).

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% 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%) employees agree there is a negative stereotype or stigma surrounding older workers, with an additional 23% saying there is a lack of government support for these employees.

12% said having older employees in the workplace creates more problems than benefits. However, there are benefits to keeping older staff: almost two-thirds (63%) 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%), followed by more part-time opportunities (21%), new skills training (15%), employee support programmes (11%) and workplace benefits (10%).

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% see critical illness cover as the most important benefit, followed by life insurance (29%) and income protection (24%).

Yet 28% of employees currently do not receive any workplace benefits, equivalent to 8.8 million people. This is down from the 31% who said the same last year, suggesting some employers are taking advantage of a stronger economic situation to improve their employee benefits packages. Some may also have bolstered their benefits offering as a result of pensions auto-enrolment: yet there is still room for improvement.

Paul Avis, Marketing Director of Canada Life Group, comments:

“More and more people are working beyond 65 following the abolition of the default retirement age and the ongoing plans to raise the State Pension Age. This gives employers an opportunity to capitalise on the skills of two or even three generations within their workforce. This opportunity is not without its unique challenges, of course. Peoples’ needs and priorities change over the course of their lifetime, so to keep the best staff employers need to offer a range of benefits which will appeal to the full cross-section of their employees.

As the UK workforce moves towards a new normal in terms of multi-generational working, and economic prospects improve, it will be companies with the foresight to embrace the change and adapt to it now who will benefit the most. Coupled with the focus on benefits being driven by pensions auto-enrolment, the time to review your employee benefits package is now.”


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Canada Life Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Canada Life International Limited and CLI Institutional Limited are Isle of Man registered companies authorised and regulated by the Isle of Man Financial Services Authority.

Canada Life International Assurance (Ireland) DAC is authorised and regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

Stonehaven UK Limited and MGM Advantage Life Limited, trading as Canada Life, are subsidiaries of The Canada Life Group (U.K.) Limited. Stonehaven UK Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. MGM Advantage Life Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.