Benefit Considerations for an Aging Workforce

Jessica Miller-Merrell, blogging4jobs

An aging workforce can have an affect on many aspects of your business but your benefits package may be the most significant. Older employees have unique needs and preferences, which means that there may be special considerations as our workforce ages.

Since the average age of retirement has increased by four years in the last decade and is expected to continue to rise, it’s time to start making room for a seasoned workforce as we make benefit decisions. Read below to learn about three major considerations.

Medical Benefits
Medical benefits for older workers may not cost companies as much as you would think, but there are some important factors involved. First off, older workers actually tend to have fewer workplace accidents and injuries than the younger sector. They are more careful in what they do and because of this, could help companies save. On the other hand, they typically have more long-term injuries and illnesses, which is why medical benefits are so important to them.

One way in which companies can plan for this is to offer wellness programs and educate employees on health issue so that when they are at the age where many of their peers experience serious health issues, they may not be in that situation. Additionally, a healthier workforce means higher productivity and longer retention periods.

Paid Time Off
As mentioned above, the types of injuries and illnesses that older workers experience are often more long-term than younger workers. Because of this, older workers may need a more flexible schedule that allows them to take off a larger block of time. However, it’s important to note that while an injury or illness may require more recovery time, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are taking more sick days than their younger counterparts. In fact, According to a recent study, workers over 45 call in sick an average of 3.1 days per year, compared to workers aged 17-44, who take an average of 3.8 days.

FMLA Benefits
Employees in their fifties or sixties may find themselves part of the “sandwich generation,” in which they are caring for both children, whether minor or adult, and aging parents. According to a report from the Department of Labor, more than 43 million Americans provide care for someone older than 50 who is aging or disabled, including 15 million who care for someone with Alzheimer's disease or dementia. Nearly 1 in 10 women ages 45 to 56 is a member of the "sandwich generation.”

Under FMLA, employees can take up to 12 weeks off work to care for family members. This time can be used all at once or intermittently to care for family members. Companies may need to consider going a step further, though, by offering other services, such as counseling and support groups, to help cope with associated stress.

An increasingly aging workforce means that overall, retirement will be pushed out further than we’ve seen in the past. It may be time to start thinking about phased out retirement if your company doesn’t already have a similar program.

According to Forbes, “Some companies have set up a Casual Worker Program that allows them to hire or reemploy workers who would receive limited benefits and no pension. Others invite grandparents to work in the company child-care center.”

Providing retirement options for an aging workforce is beneficial because they typically have a great deal of industry knowledge and are hard workers. When you provide options for your older workers, they are more likely to stay.

Has your company made any accommodations for our aging workforce?

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a workplace and technology strategist specializing in social media. She’s an author who writes at Blogging4Jobs. You can follow her on Twitter @blogging4jobs. 

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