Our expert panels examined the care responsibilities of employees dealing with childcare and eldercare, and debated the current pension freedoms and industry changes

childcare eldercare panel MRP

The sandwich generation: managing care at both ends of the spectrum

Time4Care’s Rob Dolbear and Mumsnet’s Sue MacMillan joined forces at Making Reward Personal to discuss one of the key socio-demographic issues facing rewards heads today – how to deal with the so-called ‘sandwich generation’.

Today, employees are likely to have both young children and old parents to have to look after - sandwiching those trying to work in the middle. but, while the panel said things were improving, the consensus was that much more needed to be done:

“Companies are moving in the right direction,” said MacMillan, “but while there is a willingness at the policy level to be family friendly, this often falls away at the line management level.” She said flexible working was the single-most in-demand benefit from mothers today, particularly ‘permanent’ flexible working.

MacMillan added: “Companies should also not under-estimate the power of being able to provide ad-hoc flexibility. Letting staff nip out for their child’s sports-day, or being accommodating to help them deal with a family matter is crucial.”

According to Dolbear, it was the fact employers need to face up to some sobering statistics this is the worry: “There are currently 10 million people over the age of 65 now; by 2030 there will be another 5 million, and we’ll have 80% more dementia cases.”

He implored organisations to take a broader look at the family policies: “Eldercare is an issue we can’t shirk away from anymore,” he said.

“In eldercare – much more than childcare –  there’s a tendency by employers to treat it as something employees need to sort out in their own time, but good employers will enable staff to go away, look at care homes, set up power of attorney – if needed – and all the other things caring involves. If they don’t there will be a massive impact on absenteeism, presenteeism, and the effects will also be felt by their colleagues.”

Added MacMillan: “It can’t be good for employees to pretend they don’t have kids.”

Pensions: making a (near) universal benefitpersonal

It was a feisty panel debate between representatives from Age UK, Intelligent Pensions, and State Street Global Advisors that took place at Making Reward Personal, with most debate hanging over the extent to which employers involve themselves in advice and financial education around new pensions freedoms.

“People have relied on their employer for their entire savings journey,” said Nigel Aston, managing director and head of UK defined contribution at State Street Global Advisors. “Then, all of a sudden they’re told to sort out pensions themselves. my view is that employees see it as the duty of employers to help them at the time of the payment side of things.” He added: “Either provide advice or educate people or set up a path of least resistance [like having drawdown].”

But Andrew Pennie however, marketing director, Intelligent Pensions, said he took umbrage with this view, arguing there is no such thing as a one-size fits all plan - the type that employers will be restricted to talk about.”

He also disagreed with Age UK’s suggestion that starting to engage with staff ten years’ out from pensions freedoms (ie at aged 45), is too early. “This is too young for people to engage about the money they’ll be taking from their pension,” he said.

Age UK’s Chris Brooks debated whether an annuity is entirely risk-free, with Aston saying: “The biggest problem with all of this is knowing how long money will last for.”

NEST has recently suggested employees might be able to establish a guaranteed income at the end of their life, but Pennie dismissed this as “people simply being asked to pay for an insurance product.”

Aston said: “Very few employers seem to want to take responsibility for staff once they’ve retired. This is the bit that needs looking at. I think a good age for employers to start having conversations about annuities, or draw downs etc..is five years away from freedoms.”

“What we mustn’t also forget,” said Brooks, “is that a lot of people will still be working, whilst simultaneously claiming their pension. Employers will have to take on some responsibility about communication of pensions for older people – especially if these people are still in the company.”