ILC-UK welcomes Nick Clegg’s plans, set out this week, to extend the right to flexible working to all employees. The new package of employment rights due to come into force in 2014 aims to boost the participation of women and older people in the labour market. It will give all employees the right to request reduced or part time hours and working from home arrangements. In Tuesday’s speech the Deputy Prime Minister explained that his plans will ‘help drive a culture shift in the workplace’ and enable people who are nearing or who have reached retirement to tailor working patterns to suit their lives.
Currently, the over 65s make up three per cent of all workers, a percentage which has doubled over the last decade due both to increasing life expectancy and longer working lives. This is a positive change but the UK still performs badly in terms of older workers when compared to other EU countries such as France and Germany.
In April 2012, ILC-UK proposed that older citizens have a responsibility where possible, to remain in the labour market to enable skills retention and minimise the financial burden on taxpayers. ILC-UK recognised that older people must also have a right to receive support from both employers and society more generally to enable them to have longer, more fulfilling working lives. An ILC-UK survey found support for longer employment amongst the older population; 46 per cent of over 65s would consider delaying retirement if their employer offered support for reducing their hours, or working more flexibly.
According to an Age UK report, flexible working would allow older workers to manage their health needs, continue looking after people in their care and enable a smooth transition to retirement.
Contrary to common belief, employment is not “one in, one out” and boosting employment among older workers does not automatically mean younger people are deprived of work. Instead, expanding employment into older age raises incomes and stimulates demand for other services, which has a positive effect on further job creation. To harness this economic benefit and to remain competitive in today’s global marketplace, organisations will need to be responsive to change and instigate flexible working plans for the UK’s growing older workforce.