By 2022 we will see 1 in 3 workers over the age of 50 1. Some contributory factors to this increased older workforce are: later retirements due to the rise in state pension age; personal pensions not providing sufficient income; and longer life expectancy. The over 50s are also known as the ‘sandwich generation’ – people ‘sandwiched’ between caring for children/grandchildren and ageing parents.
Research2 suggests that middle aged women form the majority of this struggling generation; juggling work, caring responsibilities and the financial pressures associated with social care. Many are also helping their adult children who are quite often still living at home well into their 20s and sometimes 30s. All people, at some point or another, will start to experience the more complex health related issues as they age, with women often experiencing menopausal symptoms during their working age.
Stereotyped views and myths surrounding older workers – such as “older workers just can’t work as well as younger members of the team” or “older workers are not interested in developing new skills” – have been busted by research in Wales which proves that older workers are in fact more loyal, reliable, conscious and committed . This same research showed that, despite this, the over 50s are often the most under-valued, under-utilised and over-looked pool of talent available to employers.
It is estimated that £3.5 billion is lost annually by UK businesses in productivity, replacement recruitment and on boarding costs, due to workers being forced to leave businesses in order to juggle their home life3. Businesses will also shed expertise, knowledge and valuable mentors/role models as these workers leave or jump to another business that does offer more flexible working arrangements. In this uncertain economic climate, with the full impact of Brexit yet to be understood, retaining staff is vital to the survival of businesses.
The availability of a range of flexible working options is the most commonly cited solution for many older workers. In a recent survey 78% of those over 50 said they would like access to greater flexible working options, with 73% wanting to see a greater range of part time roles.
Quite often we see flexible working arrangements in place for those in entry level positions or non-specialist roles. However, those occupying senior roles and more specialist occupations often find themselves trapped within a long working hour’s culture where part time working isn’t an option. Despite this, there are some solutions that can help workers find a better work-life balance, such as the introduction of new technologies to enable remote working. The availability of part time working at senior level can prevent occupational downgrading, which can be a significant loss to businesses. Staggered start and finish times can assist a woman manage the more challenging symptoms of the menopause, such as insomnia and medical appointments.
All employees have the legal right to request flexible working after at least 26 weeks’ employment with the same employer. It is important to note the word ALL – so not just parents or carers. This is known as a ‘statutory application’. Flexible working is a wide ranging term that includes: flexibility of hours (e.g. start and finish times); part time roles and job sharing; working from home; and remote working practices. Having a robust policy and procedure that includes a wide range of options will increase the opportunity for workers to achieve a better work-life balance, improving the attractiveness of your business.
Chwarae Teg’s Agile Nation2 Business Programme can support SMEs based in Wales to improve their flexible working options. Our team of specialists can review your current working practices and survey your staff to ascertain their perceptions of your business. We will then provide you not only with recommendations, which can meet your staff and business needs, but also the support to implement those changes.
Gender equality is at the heart of everything we do. Our team will provide you with a fresh perspective on your working practices; enabling your business to develop transparent policies and procedures, upskill managers to understand best practice and promote an inclusive business culture where employees thrive.
Equip your business today by taking your place on our fully funded Business Programme. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.