New research by Unite, the UK’s leading union, has exposed the pension and retirement time bomb facing workers, with many stating they can’t continue working in key roles until state pension age.


Clear warning


The survey’s findings act as a clear warning to the government that it would be disastrous to press ahead with plans to accelerate the introduction of increasing the state pension age to 68 (it is currently proposed the increase will be phased in between 2044 and 2046).


Over 10,000 Unite members across four key sectors (construction, health, passenger transport (bus and trams) and road haulage/warehouse) took part in the survey. All the sectors produced overwhelming evidence that workers do not believe they can continue in their present jobs to the existing state pension age of 66/67, let alone any later.


Staggering figures 


The survey found that a staggering 86 per cent of health workers do not believe they can mentally continue to undertake their current roles beyond the age of 66, while 83 per cent of them could not physically continue in their roles beyond the same age.


The figures were not quite as extreme for the other three sectors but still demonstrated that the overwhelming majority of workers don’t believe they can continue working until the existing state pension age. Three quarters (75 per cent) of construction workers stated they can’t work physically beyond 66, while nearly two thirds (64 per cent) said the mental demands of the job would become too much by 66 at the latest.


Physical demands


Figures for road haulage and warehouse workers are equally stark with 76 per cent saying that they will not be able to physically work beyond 66, while 70 per cent said the mental demand of the job will become too great by that age.


Passenger transport workers (the majority of whom are bus drivers) had the lowest figures of being unable to continue in their job to state pension age, but even here the majority will not be able to continue. Two thirds (67 per cent) said the mental demands would become too great by 66, while the job would become too physically demanding by then for 57 per cent of them.


Pension and retirement time bomb


Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The UK is facing a pension and retirement time bomb. Tens of thousands of workers will be forced out of employment due to the physical and mental demands of their work but will be too young to receive the state pension.


“The government needs to urgently rethink its entire strategy of expecting workers to work even longer. A failure to do so will consign workers to the misery of being too old to work but too young for a pension.


“Plans to accelerate the introduction of the state pension age to 68 are clearly unworkable.”


Best case scenario 


Unite’s findings are a best case scenario for the longevity of how long workers can continue in their present jobs. For example, in health 31 per cent of respondents say that they will be forced to leave their jobs due to mental pressure before 60, while in the same sector almost a quarter (24 per cent) warn the physical demands will become great too before their sixtieth birthday.


Member testimonies 


Responding to the survey, a Unite health worker said: “The current mental and physical stress placed on staff in the NHS is likely to result in burn out and long term damage to the health of staff. The huge amount of on-call and regular instances of working 20-24 hours without a rest when on-call is dangerous.”


A construction worker added: “I, like many others tradesmen, suffer with joint pain, back pain and symptoms of arthritis. This progressively gets worse as you age during your working life. I think it is unfair that a manual worker cannot retire earlier due to the wear and tear.”


Unite delegates to the union’s policy conference will be debating issues regarding pensions and retirement on Wednesday (12 July).




For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.


Email: [email protected]


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Unite is the UK and Ireland’s leading union fighting to protect and advance jobs, pay and conditions for members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.