The number of older women working flexibly has fallen as they are being “frozen out” of the labour market.
That’s according to analysis of labour market statistics by charities Age UK and Carers UK. They said the reduction in the number of older women working flexibly in the last two years coincides with a “marked increase in the number of older women unemployed for more than a year”.
The charities said older women often struggle to work traditional hours because of caring responsibilities. They believe increasing flexible working opportunities could help these women find work.
In 2012, 36.8% of women worked flexibly, down from 38.3% in 2010. At the same time, long-term unemployment in women aged 50-64 rose to 40.7% from 34.5%.
Speaking at a Working Families briefing on flexible working in February, Age UK policy adviser Chris Brooks said men over the age of 50 have more flexibility than women because of home working. The prevalence of home working also means there is a big discrepancy between managerial and routine occupations – something that also negatively affects women.
“It’s something all employers should be thinking about. Avoid flexible working being a preserve of management – make sure low skilled lower earners have access to flexible working,” he said.
Brooks added that Age UK would like to see flexible working available from day one of a job and flexibility as a default position. “There is a strong sense that employers aren’t as receptive to flexible working around caring as they are for other reasons, particularly maternity,” he said. “It is something a lot of employers need to get to grips with.”
Heléna Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, said: Unless carers can access flexibility at work and reliable care services at home they are at risk of being forced to give up work entirely, with serious costs not just to their family finances but also to their employer and the economy.”
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