THE BLOG

Were we all better off in the 1980s?

13/06/2013 18:19 BST | Updated 13/08/2013 10:12 BST

Over the past three decades, our lives have changed dramatically, but some things just haven't kept pace.

We've looked at today's workforce and compared it to the 1980s. The modern day workforce is older, more feminised and includes more disabled workers than it did in Thatcher's Britain. But employee benefits haven't evolved to reflect these changes at all, leaving today's workers financially exposed.

In the report, Keeping Pace? Financial Insecurity in the Modern Workforce, Cass Business School found significant gaps have opened up between employer-provided benefits, such as pensions and Income Protection, and the financial safety net required by today's workforce. At a time when the demographics of the modern workforce are shifting towards employees that have a greater need for financial benefits - employees with caring responsibilities, older and disabled workers - the research shows that the ratio of wages to employee benefits is outdated, so these 'at risk' groups are disproportionately impacted by the employee benefits gap.

As a result, we're more likely to fall into financial difficulty than we were 30 years ago. And, if we're in financial difficulty we're less productive, so it's in an employer's best interests to better protect their people.

However, we think there are some steps that employers can take to better protect their staff:

• By increasing pensions contributions and supporting with social care provision that is likely to be needed later in life, employers can help staff plan for old age and retirement

• As recent research shows that half of us face the threat of cancer by 2020, providing better support for people with long-term illnesses and disabilities - through specialist vocational support for rehabilitation; offering Group Income Protection to improve financial security; and making workplace adaptations - will help to get people who are able, back to work

• And, offering flexible working to all employees to support the ageing workforce, and the 'sandwich generation', who have the increased caring responsibilities for both children and older relatives, will help to build a loyal and more productive workforce

• Improving access to occupational health and wellbeing services will help to prevent some health issues from becoming serious. And providing financial protection in the case of long-term sickness absence, will remove some avoidable concerns

• The increasing demands of an ageing population and the escalating costs of new drug treatments place greater demand on the NHS. Today the NHS provides good support for acute conditions. However, in future, employees may require private medical insurance to ensure similar levels of access to services and new drug treatments

• Providing elective private medical insurance will start to address the increasing demands on the NHS presented by an aging population and the escalating costs of new drug treatments

As the UK economy continues to flounder in recession, we recognise this is a big ask of Britain's businesses. But, we believe it's both beneficial and the right thing to do. To help drive these changes, we are looking to the Government to build on its commitment to offer tax relief on health treatments by putting tax breaks in place to increase adoption of better employee benefits to protect the modern workforce from the insecurities of job loss, old age and ill health.