Seven things to consider when talking to employees about phased retirement

Seven things to consider when talking to employees about phased retirement
  • Financial wellbeing
  • 4 minute read

A number of seismic factors – including war, a global pandemic, Brexit and now a cost of living crisis – have meant that retirement has slipped to the bottom of the list of priorities for many older employees.

In fact, nearly one in five (19%) workers aged between 65-74 and 14% of those aged 55-64 have delayed their retirement as a result of the pandemic, according to a Close Brothers’ report published last year.

The ‘Expecting the Unexpected’ survey of 2,000 UK-based employees carried out in January 2021, showed how significantly the Covid-19 crisis has affected the financial plans of employees across the country. Around a quarter of workers admitted that they don’t know the value of their pension savings. Worryingly, this figure actually rose among older workers, with a third (33%) of employees aged 55+ and 30% of those aged 65+ saying they didn’t know much about the value of their pension scheme or savings.

For people who wish to retire early, but don’t have enough in their pension pot to do so, phased retirement could be the answer. But what sort of things do employers and employees need to think about when discussing phased retirement? How does it work, and how can employers talk to their employees about it?

1. Highlight the benefits of slowing down

There is a wealth of research which shows that working full-time, and then stopping suddenly, can be detrimental to your health and wellbeing.

There are even studies that indicate that early retirement can, tragically, lead to an early death. A 2016 study by Cornell University and the University of Melbourne showed that increasing numbers of men were dying at the age of 62, when they are legally allowed to start drawing a Social Security allowance, because they had left the workforce or found themselves unable to find a job.

Highlighting the benefits of winding down gradually could have significant benefits to your employees’ health and wellbeing, and even their life expectancy. Phased retirement can help reduce anxiety and stress, promote a better work/life balance and help prepare older workers for the next stage of their lives.

2. Try to be as flexible and accommodating as possible

When the UK standard retirement age of 65 was scrapped in April 2011, it enabled many older employees to continue working for as long as they liked. However, some older employees may wish to retire but not have the means to do so. Giving them the flexibility to continue working on a part-time basis through a phased retirement scheme, could be the solution. This means they can continue to enjoy a proportion of guaranteed income while slowly winding down from full-time employment.

3. Remember that it’s a win-win for employers too

While the employee gets to continue earning, potentially extend the longevity of their savings/pension fund and work towards gaining better financial freedom and comfort in full retirement, employers get to retain the vital skills and knowledge of some of their most experienced employees. So phased retirement is, put simply, a win-win.

4. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

The old adage is especially true when it comes to retirement. One of the key advantages of a phased retirement is that it allows for ongoing succession planning on both sides. The employer can gradually reduce its outgoings and costs (salary, National Insurance, pension contributions and so on) while the employee weighs up the financial implications on a longer-term basis.

5. Don’t forget the potential pitfalls

There are a number of issues for the employer to consider when it comes to supporting employees with a phased retirement plan. There are tax implications to earning a salary and enjoying income from a pension at the same time. It is also important that the employee does not underestimate their financial needs over their phased retirement period. This could lead to them using up more of their savings/pension over this time, leaving them without the means to fund their full retirement as they expected.

6. Put a policy in place

Remember that employers don’t have any sort of legal obligation to provide a phased retirement plan for workers – but, as outlined above, there are a number of advantages and benefits to offering this. Having a clear policy in place to outline how it works, including the percentage of their salary they will continue to earn (usually around 50%), and the expected timescale, will help clarify things for employees and their managers.

7. Seek advice from a financial adviser if you’re struggling

Don’t forget that employees who wish to continue working for longer into older age are protected by law from being forced into retirement under the Equalities Act 2010.

Financial wellbeing advisers can provide guidance on phased retirement planning, offering practical support and minimising any potential risks involved for employers and employees alike.


To find out how Close Brothers can help your company improve the financial wellbeing of your employees, go to our financial education services page or call us on 0800 028 0208

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