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Insurance for an Aging Workforce

Posted on Apr 23, 2013 by Ailee Slater ()  | Tags: aging workforce, Aviva, NHS, private medical insurance, UK

As the United Kingdom copes with an aging workforce, employers are becoming more aware of the needs of older workers - especially in terms of health and insurance. According to a 2012 Health of the Workplace report by insurance provider Aviva, 29 percent of UK employers have seen a rise in the average age of employees, and 37 percent expect this trend to continue. The report also found that employers are concerned about giving these older workers access to health care.

Although the United Kingdom has a free, universal health system for all citizens, some people choose to invest in private insurance. UK residents over 55, for example, often opt to purchase a separate health plan in order to cope with a chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease. By using private insurance rather than relying on the National Health Service, a customer can enjoy shorter waiting times for treatments, schedule doctor appointments in a more timely fashion, and exercise more choice in finding a physician or hospital.

Some employers already offer workers private health insurance, as part of a workplace package to encourage higher caliber employees to join the company. A promise of private health insurance will be even more enticing to potential employees who bring much maturity, skills and experience, but due to their age, want a job that will provide a strong safety net in terms of health care benefits.

One reason for the increasingly older workforce in the UK has been the end of compulsory retirement. Before October 2011, employers could mandate that any workers 65 years of age or older leave the workplace. With the end of compulsory retirement, along with an unstable European economy, more and more employees in the UK are choosing to stay with their jobs past the age of sixty-five. These are exactly the workers to whom private medical insurance will often appeal.

Indeed, private insurance for employees can benefit their employers as well. The Aviva Health of the Workplace study found that 39 percent of employers surveyed had experienced workers unable to function at full capacity due to long waits for medical treatment. With private insurance, a shorter wait time to see a doctor or receive a treatment can mean a more functional employee. This situation is especially true for older workers. The chances of being diagnosed with a chronic disease increase with age, and the group UK Cancer Research has found that more than 50 percent of all cancers occur in people aged 50 to 70 years old.

In a report entitled, "An Aging Workforce: The Employer's Perspective," researchers from the Institute for Employment Studies also took a look at the issues surrounding an older workforce. The study points out that around one half of people who decide to retire early do so because of poor health. Many of these people may be managing a chronic illness or suffering from a musculoskeletal disorder; afflictions which can often be improved with access to better health care or a change in working conditions.

The Institute for Employment Studies also notes the need for better information about how employers can help their older employees deal with potential health issues. Older workers can often provide a valuable resource in terms of experience and tacit knowledge, but will often choose jobs that allow for more flexibility when a health problem arises. When employers are more aware of older workers' needs, the company can run more smoothly.

The issue of an aging workforce in the United Kingdom is becoming especially pronounced thanks to a warning last year from Britain's CIPD, also known as the world's largest human resource association. CIPD (the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) has warned that although around 13.5 million jobs will be created during the next decade, a mere 7 million young people will be entering the workforce. What's more, estimates from the UK government indicate that by 2020, 36 percent of workers in Great Britain will be 50 years of age or older. With a greater amount of older people in the workforce, and indeed a greater need for older people to stay in the workforce, the question of private medical insurance may become even more important to employers in the near future.

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