Five legal issues employees aged 50-plus need to think about

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the UK now has more than 10 million workers aged 50 and above, representing 31 per cent of the total workforce. And, as people live longer and the state pension age increases, this figure is set to rise.

As employers will know, the needs and concerns of this age group will be different to those of their younger workers and, as such, require benefits specifically tailored to their circumstances.

Our own research conducted in 2017 revealed that the top five benefits most valued by employees aged 55 and above were a pension (96 per cent), health insurance (91 per cent), flexible working (86 per cent), life insurance (84 per cent) and legal advice (83 per cent).

These figures give a clear overall picture of the sorts of concerns older employees have and can provide the basis for a benefits programme tailored more specifically to their needs.

Although auto-enrolment means that workplace pensions are now available to employees of all ages, and group health and life insurance are established benefits, legal advice is often hidden away in an employee assistance programme (EAP). The low usage levels of this provision suggest that employees either don’t know the benefit exists or don’t understand what constitutes a ‘legal’ issue.

Older employees, however, face a number of legal issues that, though often considered gloomy, need serious consideration if they are to protect their own future welfare and the interests of their family.

Below we list five legal concerns your 50-plus employees may be facing and suggest a way for you to help them.

1. How can I safeguard my family’s financial wellbeing after my death?

Making a will is the only way to ensure that your estate – your property, money and belongings – are passed on to your family members exactly as you would wish. Not having a will in place when you die – known as dying intestate – means that the state effectively decides who gets what based on the rules of intestacy. Furthermore, dying without a will often results in delays in getting all the financial matters sorted and can lead to family disputes and hardship.

2. Who will look after my children should I die before they reach 18?

As people are generally starting families later in life or have children from second marriages, the number of 50-plus employees with dependent children is set to increase. Our own research in 2018 revealed that 28 per cent of employees aged 55-plus had children aged 18 or younger living with them.

In the tragic event that your child or children are orphaned before they reach 18, they would become the responsibility of the state unless you had made a will and appointed a guardian to take care of them – another really important reason why you should make a will.

3. Who will look after my financial affairs if I can’t?

The risk of becoming ill obviously increases as we age and conditions such as dementia are becoming more prevalent as people live longer. Losing the ability to manage your financial affairs can be a serious worry for people as they age and leaves them vulnerable to exploitation and hardship.

Creating a power of attorney to give someone you know and trust – an adult child, for example – the authority to look after your finances in the event that you can’t do so yourself can be very reassuring. A ‘property and financial affairs lasting power of attorney’ can be created at any time and covers things like managing a bank or building society account, paying bills, collecting benefits or a pension or even selling your home.

4. How will my health/wellbeing wishes be met if I lose capacity?

In addition to financial matters, you might have concerns about your physical wellbeing, particularly around how you would like to be looked after if you became seriously ill and lost the ability to make decisions yourself. In this situation, a ‘health and welfare lasting power of attorney’ can be used to specify how you’d like to be looked after if you lost capacity, including any medical or life-sustaining treatment, and can be used to nominate someone you trust to carry out your wishes.

5. I’m an unmarried parent cohabitating with my partner – what are the legal implications?

The UK has seen a rise in the number of cohabitating couple families over the last few years and it is now estimated that there are 3.3 million such families. The law, however, does not protect unmarried couples as it does married people, so cohabitees should take steps to safeguard their interests.

Making a will each, owning a property as joint tenants, creating a cohabitation agreement and giving each other power of attorney will help mitigate the risk of you and your children being left in financial straits should your partner die before you.

So, is there anything employers can do to help their 50-plus employees manage these legal risks and get peace of mind?

Epoq’s employee benefit Legal for Life offers a convenient, easy and very cost-effective way for employees to access both expert legal advice over the phone and the ability to easily prepare a range of legal documents themselves, including wills, powers of attorney, cohabitation agreements and divorce petitions.

Conveniently available online, Legal for Life, will empower your 50-plus employees to protect their interests and those of their family, at any time, from the comfort of their own homes.

To find out more about adding Legal for Life to your employee wellbeing programme, please contact us by email or on 020 8731 2424.