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Published on 11 April 2014 12:00 PM

New figures show the proportion of older women working flexibly has fallen over the last two years. This 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.

The total number of people working has grown steadily over this period but the number of older women in jobs has fallen, suggesting many want to work but can’t find suitable employment. The analysis was carried out by Carers UK and Age UK, Age Scotland’s sister charity. The charities believe boosting opportunities to work flexibly could help many of these unemployed women find work.

The analysis of the Labour Force Survey found that in 2012, 36.8 % of women worked flexibly, down from 38.3 % in 2010. Over the same period long-term unemployment among women aged 50-64 rose from 34.5 % to 40.7% (an increase of nearly a fifth)

Katrina Coutts, Age Scotland’s Communication Manager, said: “Many older women have caring responsibilities, whether it be for ageing parents, children or grandchildren. This analysis suggests a lack of flexible employment is particularly penalising this group and is effectively locking many out of the jobs market.

“These findings show that it’s time for every workplace to be ‘Flexible by Default’ so that women can work flexibly unless their employer can justify otherwise.”

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.

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.

Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: 'One in four 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.

For more information: Call the Age Scotland helpline: 0800 12 44 222