Employers embrace support for over-50s to harness their valuable skills

Aviva report reveals progressive workplace initiatives that prioritise employee wellbeing

In an era where ageism has been a significant concern in the workplace, a groundbreaking report by Aviva, one of the UK’s foremost insurance and retirement companies, brings refreshing news.

According to “Aviva’s Working Lives Report 2023: Fit for Future” report, 10% of employers have taken crucial steps in the past year to support and retain employees over 50.

This newfound recognition of older workers’ value emphasises their wealth of experience and skills, marking a significant turning point for inclusivity and diversity in the workplace.

Aviva’s survey, encompassing a wide range of businesses, revealed that 76% of employers consider retaining employees over 50 important, with a remarkable 32% believing it very important. These numbers underscore a growing realisation among employers that older workers bring unique perspectives and contributions crucial to fostering a productive and well-rounded workforce.

Debbie Bullock, the Head of Wellbeing at Aviva, highlighted the importance of supporting individuals in a manner that acknowledges their individual needs.

“Employees over 50 can be a valuable asset to an organisation, bringing a breadth of experience and skills. It is important they are supported by employers in a way that recognises their individual needs.

“Improving retention rates can be supported by apprenticeship programmes, which offer an opportunity to reskill, and mid-life MOTs, which are a free check-up of your wealth, work, and wellbeing. It is also worth considering options for job-sharing, ‘part-tirement’, and seasonal working to cover peak times.”

The Government’s recent announcement of a £70 million investment in support for over-50s staying in or returning to work further reinforces the significance of this shift in mindset. This “Back to Work Budget” reflects a broader recognition of older workers’ value to the economy and the workplace.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), a study conducted among individuals aged 50 to 65 who left or lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic revealed their preferences for paid employment.

Flexible working hours ranked as the most critical factor for 32% of respondents, followed closely by good pay (23%) and the ability to work from home (12%). These findings indicate that older workers seek opportunities catering to their changing needs and preferences.

The ONS study further highlighted that those over-50s considering a return to work, particularly those with physical or mental health conditions, prioritise financial stability (67%) and the social aspect of work (46%). These insights challenge the notion that career success must always equate to promotion, emphasising the importance of fulfilling roles that promote personal wellbeing and job satisfaction.

Debbie Bullock emphasised the need to break down the stigma surrounding non-linear career paths. She said:

“It is commonly felt that careers should follow a linear upward trajectory, moving up the ranks with age. However, it seems some older workers also value flexibility, the social company, enjoyment, and general wellbeing that comes with a job rather than fulfilling promotion aspirations.

“It is time to break down the taboo that career success necessarily means promotion, especially in later working lives. Employers have a role in encouraging their people to use their skills in less pressurised roles and jobs they enjoy. Apprenticeships are not just for the young and are another way to reskill older workers into alternative roles.

Staying in work and coming back to work has some clear benefits for older workers besides the financial security, which they appear to recognise. The social aspect of work and the act of going to work can contribute to improved mental and physical health. Aside from the positive implications for individuals, it has potential benefits for society and the economy.”

Aviva’s Working Lives Report 2023 also shed light on other progressive workplace initiatives introduced by employers in the past year. These include support for diversity, equity, and inclusion (9%), menopause symptoms (6%), LGBTIQ+ employees (7%), neurodiverse employees (7%), and employees experiencing fertility issues (5%).

By recognising and addressing the unique needs of a diverse workforce, employers create a more inclusive and supportive environment that fosters morale, motivation, productivity, and performance.

The findings of Aviva’s report and the subsequent initiatives by employers to support over-50s and other diverse groups signal a paradigm shift in workplace culture. These positive steps demonstrate a commitment to equality, showcasing a growing appreciation for the valuable contributions that individuals of all ages and backgrounds bring to the table. As society continues to evolve, embracing and celebrating this diversity will undoubtedly lead to a more vibrant, inclusive, and prosperous future for all.

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