Companies Are Surprisingly Unsupportive of Workers Nearing Retirement, Data Shows

While some adults aim to retire as early as they possibly can, there are those who prefer to keep plugging away for as long as they're able, whether it be to boost their savings or avoid the boredom that retirement tends to produce. Unfortunately, it turns out that older workers may not be getting the support they deserve across the board.

A recent Transamerica study found that only 39% of employers offer older workers flexibility as far as their schedules go. Meanwhile, only 31% allow older employees the option to go from full-time to part-time, and just 27% give pre-retirees the option to transition to less demanding positions.

What's ironic, of course, is that older workers can be a boon to employers, especially high-profile contributors with specialized skills. Having seasoned employees on staff could save a company money on training and onboarding, especially if it implements a mentoring system designed to get new employees up to speed. And while a company could, in theory, invest in employee development to help transition younger workers into older workers' roles, it's hard to package decades' worth of experience into a single seminar or online course.

But despite the value older workers bring to the table, employers tend to perceive them somewhat negatively. Many companies associate older workers with higher healthcare and disability costs. Throw in the fact that older employees tend to command higher salaries, and it's no wonder employers are often hesitant to support them in their transition to retirement. Rather, many would rather see their older employees jump ship sooner rather than later -- even if that ultimately ends up hurting the business logistically and financially.

It pays to be flexible with older workers

From a company perspective, the motivation to support and engage pre-retirees may just not be there. But it should be, because if employers don't start to facilitate smoother transitions to retirement, they may come to find that rather than see their older workers resign, they instead dig their heels in and wait to be pushed out. And that could open the door to a host of costly legal ramifications.

Remember, a large number of older workers are driven to extend their careers not for the satisfaction but for the money. And so when push comes to shove, many will inevitably agree to keep working long hours and remain in their high-stress roles because they feel they simply don't have a choice. In forcing that hand, however, employers are doing themselves and their workers a huge disservice.

If your company has thus far adopted a rigid policy with regard to older workers, it pays to consider the merits of being flexible. For one thing, if you allow older employees the option of a partial retirement, many will likely take it. And once that happens, you get the best of both worlds: the expertise of your seasoned employees without having to pay them their full-time salaries and benefits.

Furthermore, you may reach a point where you'll want your seasoned workers around on a consultant basis. If you're willing to give older employees the flexibility to set their own hours, work remotely, or do whatever it takes to make the daily grind more manageable as they age, they, in turn, might show their loyalty by agreeing to return to work on an as-needed basis even once officially retired. And that's a safety net you probably don't want to give up.

Older workers add value to businesses in more ways than one, so rather than make their lives needlessly difficult, aim to be supportive. You may find that it really pays off in the long run.

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