Older worker poll shows value of experience as money and pension worries keep people in employment longer

30 January 2014

  • 60-plus staff make great role models
  • Older workers take fewer sick days
  • Just 3% of adults expect to retire at 55
  • 40% fear retirement money worries

Working beyond the traditional retirement age is having a positive effect in the British workplace as older people stay on in work because of high living costs and uncertainty about the future, a survey commissioned by Nationwide Building Society shows.

The research gives an insight into why people may be working later in life, with more than two fifths (41%) of workers believing they will not be financially secure in retirement, while nearly three-quarters (74%) were concerned that their pension alone won’t be enough for them to continue at their current level of personal spending.

Despite this, more than two thirds of all UK adults (68%) think having a person in a team at work aged over 60 has, or would have, a positive impact. Furthermore, nine out of ten people (88%) believe those aged 60 and above can be excellent mentors or role models to those in their 20s and 30s. The research also shows that while 78% of people polled think that it is important that younger colleagues help those in their 60s to use new technology at work, more than two thirds (71%) believe the introduction of gadgets such as smartphones and tablets has forced those aged 60 and above to keep up with younger peers.

The survey highlights some surprising results regarding sickness records at work, with 45% of workers aged 55 and above having not taken sick leave over the past 12 months, compared to 36% of 18-24 year olds. Just over one in four (26%) of those aged 55 and above have taken up to three days off for illness, compared to 40% of 18-24 year olds. The poll also shows that 35-44 year olds are the age group most likely to take time off work for a hangover (8%), compared to just 1% of those aged 55 and above, and that 70% of those aged 55 and above usually arrive early to work compared to 47% of those aged 25-34 and 50% of those aged 18-24.

Early retirement has become an unlikely prospect for the overwhelming majority, according to the survey, with just 3% of workers believing they will be able to retire at the age of 55. However, some 13% of those polled expect to retire at 60, while 16% expect to retire at 65 and 15% believe they will only be able to give up work aged 70. A further 2% believe they will not be able to retire until after they are 75.

Nationwide was the first major UK organisation in 2005 to change its employment policy to enable employees to work until the age of 75 and, in 2011, the Society removed the retirement age completely. The Society employs around 17,000 people, of which 16% are aged 50 or over, and 2% are aged 60 or above.

Alison Robb, group Director at Nationwide, said: "As far as Nationwide is concerned, employing older workers is a good business decision – they tend to be experienced, conscientious and hardworking. The decision should always be whether that person can do the job and has the right values.

"Having a diverse workforce which reflects our customer base makes sound commercial sense and helps Nationwide deliver high standards of service."

Notes to editors:

  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,170 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16/12/2013 – 18/12/2013. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

Older Workers at Nationwide:

  • Nationwide’s current workforce statistics show that 16 per cent of staff are aged 50 or over. Moreover, two per cent of employees are aged 60 or beyond
  • Older workers at Nationwide fulfil roles right across the organisation including Legal and Compliance, Treasury, Strategy and Planning, Marketing, HR and Customer Experience, with the majority in customer facing roles within our branches and contact centres
  • The Society was one of the first organisations to introduce flexible retirement back in 2001 to allow older employees to work until 70
  • In 2005, Nationwide became the first major UK company to change its employment rule to enable employees to work until the age of 75
  • At Nationwide, everybody is entitled to ‘stay on’ – there are no procedures to follow or ‘gatekeeping’ criteria, with employment continuing on the same terms and conditions as before, so benefits such as private health insurance and critical illness cover, which some companies believe would be too costly to provide to older workers, remain
  • The Society has seen a sizeable increase in employees staying on beyond 65, which resonates with wider UK figures showing that since the start of the recession, numbers have increased by 240,000 and since 2001 have nearly doubled
  • The primary criteria for selecting candidates at any level within Nationwide is based solely on that person’s merit, ability and experience. Age is not seen as a barrier to employment, just as gender, ethnicity, faith and disability are not.

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the UK’s largest building society as well as a top-three provider of household savings and mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million members. Customers can manage their finances in a branch, on the telephone, internet and post.

Nationwide's head office is in Swindon, with an office in Threadneedle Street, London, and with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

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