What employers can do to mitigate the rise in the State Pension Age

The State Pension Age will increase to 66 by this October. Professor David Blane, a public health expert and member of the MISPA group of specialists, outlines what employers can do to mitigate the impact.

older woman in her 50's discussing her career options


There are two ways in which the health of your employees could be adversely affected by increases in the State Pension Age. First, an already existing medical condition could worsen (remember: one in 10 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.

Identifying those most at risk

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.

From retraining to flexi working

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

  • Requests for re-training for work that is more compatible with their waning energies and 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 to 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:

Flexible working toolkit

Understanding the ‘sandwich generation’

Menopause in the workplace

*MISPA stands for Mitigating Increases in the State Pension Age. We are an informal group of specialists in public health which seeks to draw attention to the possible unintended consequences of raising the state pension age and to contribute to discussions about how to mitigate these. We have prepared a more general statement of our concerns. If you would like a copy, please email [email protected].


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