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Flexible working falls as older women frozen out

Published on 10 April 2014 11:01 PM

New figures show that the proportion of older women working flexibly has fallen over the last two years and coincides with a marked increase in the number of older women who have been unemployed for more than a year, according to an analysis of official labour market figures by two leading charities.


While the total number of people working has grown steadily over this period, the significant fall in the number of older women in jobs indicates that many want to work but can't find suitable employment.

Caring commitments for ageing parents, children and grandchildren, prevent many older women from working traditional hours. Consequently, they find themselves locked out of the jobs market resulting in the fall in the numbers working flexibly.

Age UK and Carers UK believe improving opportunities to work flexibly could help many of these unemployed women find work.

Carers trapped in low-paid jobs

  • Age UK's analysis of the Labour Force Survey found that in 2012 36.8% of women worked flexibly, down from 38.3% in 2010.
  • Long-term unemployment among women aged 50-64 in the same period rose from 34.5% to 40.7% - an increase of nearly a fifth.

A recent TUC report found that almost half of women over 50 are in part-time work with average wages of less than £10,000. The report argued that many of these women could only take part-time jobs because of caring responsibilities which trapped them in low wage jobs.

The Government has committed to extending the right to request flexible working to all employees in June 2014. The charities welcome this as an important first step, but believe that we should go further to encourage employers to promote and encourage flexibility in the workplace.

Flexible working can include a range of options, including working from home, doing flexitime or compressing hours, all of which can allow people to balance personal responsibilities with work.

Why we need flexible working to be the default option

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK said, 'We know that many older women especially are finding it impossible to hold down a full time job at the same time as fulfilling their caring responsibilities. In the end, many have to stop employment altogether or take a poorly paid part-time job, where their skills are often wasted and their income plummets.'

'That's why we need "Flexible by Default", so that everyone can work flexibly unless their employer can justify otherwise, to harness the wasted potential of many older women - and indeed older men.'

Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: '1 in 4 women in their 50s and 60s have caring responsibilities, many struggling to combine paid work with supporting ageing parents or an ill partner.

'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,'

Currently, only parents with children under the age of 16 and those with caring responsibilities can request flexible working.

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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