Phased retirement better for wellbeing


"Deceleration plans" sound great in theory but with the abolition of the DRA the reality is that older workers who don't want to retire or can't afford to, are holding onto jobs. Employers are only ...

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Poor retirement wellbeing was found to be associated with a lack of control over the retirement decision

Employers should support older workers into retirement by offering ‘bridging’ jobs and phased retirement to improve their wellbeing, according to a report from the What Works Centre for Wellbeing.

The research, which was conducted by the Universities of East Anglia, Essex, Reading and Sheffield, reviewed 99 studies to draw conclusions about wellbeing and mental health in retirement.

Poor wellbeing among retired people was found to be associated with a lack of control over the retirement decision, especially when linked to poor health or limited employment prospects. However, wellbeing was higher for those who had control over the timing or plan for their retirement.

Those who managed to wind down into retirement gradually also tended to have better outcomes. One such method of slow transitioning is ‘bridging jobs’, which can be any job the individual might have after being retired from their main career. These can be paid or unpaid, and help enable a smooth transition into full retirement.

The evidence suggests that ‘good’ bridge jobs relate to hobbies or interests and ‘bad’ bridge jobs might be taken up through financial necessity.

Nancy Hey, director of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, said employers should consider the impact of retirement on their older employees. “Good work is really important for our overall life satisfaction, and how we retire matters,” she said. “When we've gone around the UK asking what quality of life looks like the importance of wellbeing at work consistently comes up.

“Policy needs to reflect the changing patterns and ways of working, and how that impacts how, why and when we retire. A sudden shift from employed to retired isn’t working.”

Mark Bryan, a reader in economics at the University of Sheffield and co-author of the study, said people should have more control over the terms of their retirement. “The evidence on wellbeing points to the importance of giving individuals control over their retirement decision – both through support for people who wish to stay in work and decent pension provision for those who wish to retire,” he said.


As the report states 'bridging jobs' need more focus in the workplace. We are working with organisations who are doing more to create these 'good' bridging roles within their own company rather than lose the skills and experience gained by the employee over the years. Organisations across all sectors are experiencing workforce demographic challenges. They need to manage the varying approaches of workers from different demographics, make the best use of the talents and skills they have now, whilst also trying to prepare for the future. Managing deceleration plans as well as acceleration plans is equally important in this diverse workforce. Can a manual worker continue to be effective into the later years of life, should they have a deceleration plan to capture their expertise and experience, and provide a worthwhile role in the company, rather than being the poorest worker, carried along in the squad or team. This certainly doesn't add to life satisfaction. From our experience, it would seem that a company’s current talent situation is high on all board and senior management priorities at the moment, as it is now identified as a major risk to any company growth. We have a number of examples where Companies are using digital solutions to provide a competency based approach to their talent management, ensuring acceleration AND deceleration of careers are used to create productivity gain for the organisation. The impact on the organisation, the people and the culture of the organisation are proving this to be a rewarding approach.


"Deceleration plans" sound great in theory but with the abolition of the DRA the reality is that older workers who don't want to retire or can't afford to, are holding onto jobs. Employers are only able to ask open questions regarding an employee's career plans for short, medium or long term, but no direct questions like "are you planning to retire in the next 12 months" are allowed. If the employee says they wish to retire there is no problem in talking about it, but if the employee doesn't resign in writing and later changes their mind, the employer cannot compulsorily retire them. I tend to the belief that any conversation about 'deceleration' of any employee's career would fall under age discrimination and uncapped damages.


We've recently implemented phased retirement options for our employees in later career. Using our flexible working initiatives our employees now have more options throughout their career but also as they approach later career to choose how they work. This includes reducing their hours to find that work / life balance but also phasing their move into retirement 1 year prior to the retirement date set by them. From a business perspective this enables us to plan for the future with succession planning and knowledge retention but also ensures that we don't lose the talent of our older workforce.


I'd like to know more about Jude's experiences - can she provide more details either here or via email?

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