The ageing of the workforce is starting to be felt in British workplaces, with employers reporting a rise in the average age of their employees, a trend that is bringing with it an array of new employee health and wellbeing challenges.
Research by health insurer and provider Aviva has argued that nearly four out of 10 employers are expecting age-related health issues to become more of a problem in the future.
Nearly a third – 29% – of employers are reporting the average age of their employees is already increasing, with 37% predicting this trend is only going to become more pronounced and 38% fully expecting it will create new health and wellbeing challenges.
While few healthcare concerns are exclusively age-specific, a prevalence of older employees may mean there will need to be a greater focus put on issues such as cardiovascular health, musculo-skeletal health,dementia and certain types of cancer.
Yet, at the same time, employers may need to be careful of throwing too much time, effort and money at the healthcare needs of older workers.
While, yes, it makes sense to be tailoring your healthcare programmes, employers need to remain aware of the possible morale and retention pitfalls that can accompany preferentially focusing on one segment of their employee base at the expense of another.
Moreover, while it doesn’t appear to have been something that has ever been tested in court, arguably, given the age discrimination laws now in place in the UK, there may even be a danger such a focus might be able to be considered as potentially discriminatory.
Various studies have shown younger employees may be more prone to, for example, mental health problems than their older counterparts. There may, too, be a need with younger workers, especially early on in their careers, to be being offering support and advice around debt and finance as well as health-related support.
So the message for employers is: yes, by all means recognise the ageing of the workforce is going to bring with it significant healthcare issues. But don’t forget the needs of your younger employees either.