Major flexibility push needed for older workers


Government and employers should promote and deploy flexible working as a way of keeping older workers in the workplace, the government’s business champion for older workers has said.

Dr Ros Altmann last week published A New Vision for Older Workers: Retain, Retrain, Recruit – her report setting out ways to keep over 50s in the workforce. She said the intention is not to force people to stay in work but to enable those who want to work longer or phase their retirements instead of stopping suddenly.

“As a society, in recent decades, we have made great strides for working mothers in the workplace. I believe we will see a similar radical change in opportunities for older workers too in the coming years,” she said.

Altmann called on employers to plan effectively for an ageing workforce. “Consider an age and skills audit of your business, to ensure you are making the most of the knowledge and skills of your older workers and planning for the longer term; make sure all line managers are trained in managing older workers and age-diverse teams and are promoting healthy ageing, as well as flexible working,” the report added. “Considering offering family crisis leave, gap breaks and alumni programmes are other ways of retaining the skills of older staff rather than losing them.”

In addition, the report suggested government should do more to promote age and family friendly policies such as flexible working, job sharing, family leave and phased retirement to both employers and employees. In particular, good practice guides would help smaller employers know how to have conversations with their older workers.

“Flexible working and its benefits for young families are well known, but I feel there is more we can do to promote its utility for people in the later stages of their careers,” said Altmann.

“My vision is for a future where every older person who wants to work, can work, where flexible working and phased retirement are the accepted and indeed expected norm.”

In response, minister for pensions Steve Webb said government will trial targeted, intensive support for older jobseekers and will roll out an ‘older workers’ champion scheme across the UK.

“Beyond the age of 50, people start falling out of the workplace at dramatic rates – but there is a compelling economic and business case for overcoming these obstacles to access this vast untapped talent in the UK labour market,” he said.

“The government has made a good start by abolishing the default retirement age and extending the right to request flexible working. But it is clear that old-fashioned and outdated perceptions still persist.”

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