Challenges of an ageing workforce


The challenge of an ageing workforce for SMEs

Small and Medium businesses (SMEs) face particular personnel challenges. Older workers typically bring experience and stability to a business, but may need support to retrain into skills more useful in the modern workplace. Succession planning is also important, as younger workers can’t be expected to wait around forever for advancement opportunities - balancing these needs can be difficult.

What are the challenges?

Over a million people over the age of 65 are currently in work. 72% of UK employees expect to work beyond 65, and 47% expect to be over 70 before they are able to retire. 90% cited rising cost of living as a consideration, and 87% are concerned by poor returns on savings due to persistent low interest rates. There are cultural barriers in place as well, with 26% believing there is still stigma around older workers.

As with everything, there’s a silver lining!

Intergenerational workforces can be positive for business, with 41% of people feeling a mixture of workers is good in the workplace, bringing a wider range of skills and viewpoints to bear. Work also fulfils an important need for many people. 36% say they plan to work longer because they enjoy their job, and 25% value the social interaction they get at work. It is encouraging that awareness of the value of work to wellbeing grows.

Older workers, over the age of 55, are more likely to take care of themselves physically than their younger counterparts (60% v 47%) but pay less attention to their mental wellbeing (31% v 43%). Enabling employees of different ages to share the importance of self-care could reap benefits for the health of the workforce and the company.

Which benefits are important to you?

People prioritise different benefits at different stages of their life. When considering working beyond 65, 60% are more inclined to work for an employer that supports their health and wellbeing. Income protection insurance (35%), life insurance (32%) and critical illness cover (30%) were ranked the most useful benefits by this group, all of which can be relatively inexpensive additions to a plan.

Attitudes to more “traditional” employee benefits tend to become increasingly positive with age (see below) as the risks they protect against become increasingly likely.


18-34 years

35 – 54 years

55+ years

Group Life Insurance




Group Income Protection




Group Critical Illness





These benefits remain comparatively well-regarded even by younger workers. Discounted or free gym memberships, considered a “standard” wellbeing benefit to appeal to younger, more health-conscious employees, were less popular than Group Life Insurance and Group Income Protection among workers aged 18 to 34. (24% and 29% respectively would view their employer more positively v 23% for gym memberships).

Let’s sum it up.

There are potential gains to be had as a company which embraces diversity and employs a broad range of people. To get the best out of everyone it is vital to learn what is important to them and design a workplace benefit package which appeals to a wide group or can be tailored more individually. You may be surprised to find products such as Group Life Insurance and Group Income Protection fit the bill and across the full spectrum of your workforce.

There is no “one size fits all” approach to designing a benefit package, but by engaging with employees you can identify the best way for you to maximise return on your investment – perhaps the message isn’t getting across to those who could make the most of them, or it may be time to shake things up and look at other options such as flexible benefits to make the choice accessible to everyone. Your people will be happy to let you know what they want.

If you found this article helpful and would like more information on how to find employee benefits that are suited to the needs of your workforce, get in touch with an Elect consultant on 0800 0232 785 or contact us here to learn more.



Figures are based on research undertaken by Canada Life Group Insurance:

  • Ageing workforce: online survey of 1,004 UK employees in full and part-time employment, carried out in April 2018.
  • Millennials’ wellbeing in the workplace: online survey of 1,001 UK employees in full and part-time employment, carried out in November 2018



This article has been written in collaboration with Canada Life, one of Elect’s insurance providers. It is for information only and is not specific advice. It is based on our current understanding of the attributed research which may change in the future.