Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


What employers can do to Mitigate Increases in the State Pension Age

12 February 2020

In a blog produced for the Working Mums website, ICLS' David Blane, who, together with colleagues, has been looking into the potential health impacts of increases in the State Pension Age, has some food for thought for employers.

Older male worker

There are two ways in which the health of your employees could be adversely affected by the increases in the State Pension Age.  First, an already existing medical condition could worsen (remember: one-in-ten of those whose working lives will be extended in 2020 will be suffering from at least one limiting long-standing illness).  Second, one of your apparently healthy employees could develop a medical condition that requires treatment.  In both cases the worsening of their health could be due to continuing in paid employment for longer than was good for them, something against which employers might want to take precautions.

A first step might be to review your firm’s existing occupational health policies.  In some cases this will be a straightforward discussion with your occupational health staff about which older employees are likely to be at greatest risk of their health worsening and what can be done to monitor this risk.  In most cases however, particularly in small businesses, such in-house occupational health resources do not exist, so employees will have to rely on their own general medical practitioners.  

The problem that will face both occupational health staff and general practitioners is how to identify those most at risk among the estimated three-quarters of a million older employees who will each year remain in the workforce.  On whom should these scarce health resources be concentrated ?  Here research can help by identifying which physical, mental and social conditions among older employees are most likely to predict any accelerated development of disability or premature death.  The need for such information is shared by all employers who collectively, through their own business organisations, could ask the relevant parts of central government (Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy; Department of Health & Social Care; Department of Work & Pensions) and UK Research & Innovation to commission the necessary research.      

Finally, employers could anticipate a number of sensible requests from their older employees and develop & review appropriate policies through discussions with them.  

  • Requests for re-training for work that is more compatible with their waning energies & fluctuating vitality and makes best use of their potential to contribute in other ways, such as mentoring younger employees.  
  • Flexible working hours to accommodate fluctuation in the state of their own health and that of those for whom they supply informal care.  
  • Freedom from working compulsory overtime or shifts.  

These precautions may be an unwelcome addition in the demands on employers, but increases in the State Pension Age look set to continue for the foreseeable future so maybe it is better to be prepared ? The following links might produce some useful ideas: