Preparing for extended working lives


Preparing for extended working lives.



The N8 Industry Innovation Forum (N8 IIF) has enabled a multi-partner project to look at how businesses and their staff are responding to an ageing population that is working for longer. The project is one of a number to emerge from the N8IIF focussed on Healthy and Active Ageing.

The partners wanted to identify how prepared small businesses and their workers are for retirement and how they are adapting to other drivers such as the changes to state pension age. They also wanted to explore where there are gaps in how businesses and workers are preparing and where there is innovative practice.

The partners carried out a study among SMEs in the engineering sector in the North of England, working together to share knowledge, experience and contacts. A survey of employees was also conducted through the TUC.


An ageing population has many implications for the structure and shape of the labour market, but although the majority of workers aged over 55 are employed by SMEs, the impact on employers and employees within smaller businesses has not been the focus of much research to date.

The research revealed that employers are increasingly flexible in how they are accommodating the needs of older staff, with both parties working together to manage the shift into retirement, but there remain a number of concerns on both sides about the practicalities of working longer.


The project team organised an event earlier this year highlighting how SMEs are meeting the challenge of an ageing workforce. The event took place in May at the Department for Work and Pensions.

Following this, the partners are now working on two new research proposals – including one which came about as a direct result of discussions at the London event – to further explore the impact of deferred retirement in SMEs.


“All sorts of organisations are interested in how to adapt as the population gets older, so one of the first challenges was to identify the right partners to work with. This has been a very fast moving and flexible project, and partners have changed as the project has evolved. This has worked really well, since it means we’ve been able to bring on board the right expertise and knowledge as needed, and this has made it a really exciting way to work.

The support from the N8 Industry Innovation Forum has been crucial, not just in bringing partners together, but also in helping us maintain progress. The view throughout has been ‘how can we help’, which has been really refreshing.”

Dr Kate Bennett, University of Liverpool

“The diverse range of partners involved brought a great mix of expertise to the project and also meant that there was lots of opportunity to learn from each other, allowing us to influence and shape the project. Having an industry partner such as ourselves who could liaise with the businesses taking part in the research really made a difference in getting their co-operation, helping the project meet its aims.”

Cynthia Bartley, Managing Director, Age Inclusive