Image: Scott Lewis / Flickr Image: Scott Lewis / Flickr

The number of people aged 50 and above in employment has risen astonishingly over the last three decades and an increasing amount of people end up caring for a loved one at some point in their lives. But are employees aware of these changes? And are they prepared?

Statistics show the proportion of people aged 50 to 64 and aged 65+ in employment has risen since 1984 from 55% to 70% and from 5% to 10% respectively. However, over a third of mangers are unaware of what their organisation does to attract, retain and engage older employees, according to a new survey.

While employees feel supported by their employer regarding work responsibilities, they report feeling far less supported in maintaining their wellbeing and in their caring responsibilities for loved ones, according to the white paper report by AXA PPP healthcare.

Only 23% of the ‘sandwich generation’ of workers, who care for their aging parents while supporting their own children, feel they are supported by their employer.

Chris Horlick, distribution director for AXA PPP healthcare, said: “The changing nature of older age and how work is performed, combined with the predicted increase in employees who have caring responsibilities, present opportunities for redefining the relationship between the state, employer and individual when it comes to managing health and wellbeing."

The report found 44% said they felt supported in meeting work deadlines compared with 29% who felt supported in managing workplace stress and 28% who said they felt supported in managing workplace stress and maintaining their physical well being.

Mr Horlick added: “Employers need to ensure that their procedures, policies and communications are geared up to meet the needs of the growing number of older workers and, in particular, that they support the so-called sandwich generation – those who may be responsible for caring both for elderly relatives and for children or grandchildren while working.”

The white paper builds on AXA PPP healthcare’s 2015 report Embracing the multi-generation workplace and sets out several recommendations about how employers can support employees as well as top tips for line managers.

Recommendations to employers:

  • Develop a strategy that includes health and wellbeing to enable employees to stay in work.
  • Foster a culture of inclusion – listen to employees’ needs and communicate the practical support available in a clear and consistent way.
  • Support employees with care giving responsibilities – for example, introduce an informal carer network to enable carers to connect with and support each other.
  • Ensure that specialist training is in place for line managers.
  • Make use of the services available to support employees’ health, such as occupational health services and employee assistance programmes for employee and manager support.
Tips for line managers:
  • Get to know your team – what motivates them? What are their career and life plans?
  • Keep in touch with employees – ask them what they need and how the business can support them.
  • Be aware of how the Equality Act 2010 applies – age is a protected characteristic meaning it’s unlawful to discriminate against someone based on their age.
  • Use the managerial support available, such as through your HR team, and let employees know about the support available to them too – this may include paid or unpaid time off, online support for carers and workplace health services.
  • Encourage the members of your team to mix and share knowledge.
  • Help employees connect with other carers in the workplace.