Kiwi businesses still need to gear up for third age

Tuesday , 1 August 2017 by Janine Kendall

Three in four New Zealand businesses still don’t have policies or arrangements in place for older workers despite the country’s ageing workforce.

The figures are among the findings of the biennial Wellness in the Workplace Survey just released by Southern Cross Health Society and BusinessNZ.

It’s the third time the biennial survey has been carried out and BusinessNZ CEO Kirk Hope says while the trends show a gradual improvement in planning for the ageing workforce, there’s plenty more to do.

“The concerning thing is that we have a perfect storm swirling with an ageing population that’s living and working longer, a declining birth rate, an increasing skills shortage and greater levels of debt – all factors that will increasingly impact businesses and staff who aren’t prepared.”

According to the Wellness in the Workplace Survey the tools being deployed by businesses who do have plans and policies in place include reduced or flexible hours, initiating discussions around retirement plans and providing retirement information packs.

“But it’s not just about supporting people’s pathway into retirement, it’s also about viewing older workers as a potentially untapped resource who still have a significant and valuable contribution to make,” Hope says. “They will often bring a maturity, reliability and commitment that younger workers may not.”

Between 2014 and 2031 the 65+ population will have doubled to around 1.2 million and indications are that employees will increasingly work beyond the traditional retirement age of 65.

The latest Wellness in the Workplace survey results already show that while 60 per cent of staff in large businesses are likely to retire in the 65-67 age bracket, the picture is quite different for businesses with less than 50 staff.

“Among small firms staff are more likely to work beyond 65, to the extent that more than 13 per cent of smaller businesses will have a typical retirement age of 71 or older.”

It’s an issue the Employment and Manufacturers Association (EMA) has also been putting under the microscope.

EMA Chief executive Kim Campbell says their own research shows 56 per cent of employers believe the ageing workforce will impact their business.

“The types of things our members have raised with us range from the loss of skills and experience when staff retire and the difficulty of getting younger trained workers, through to older workers being less able to withstand the physical requirements of certain roles and the need to offer greater flexibility as staff age.”

And, consistent with the Wellness in the Workplace survey results, EMA’s research shows more than half (52.8%) of their member employers have staff working beyond the traditional retirement age of 65.

Kirk Hope says that’s why it’s crucial for all businesses to have the right balance of policies and practices in place to retain skills and experience, support older staff effectively, implement succession and retirement planning options and maximise older workers’ contributions.


Southern Cross Health Society-BusinessNZ Wellness in the Workplace Survey 2017