Employers must provide flexibility to support ageing workforce

The government has called on employers to make accommodations for older employees, with research revealing support for more flexible and part-time roles

The research, commissioned from Saga Populus, found that when asked what measures employers should implement to make workplaces more welcoming, respondents most commonly cited offering part-time roles (73%). Additionally more than three in five (63%) suggested that employers need to get better at offering training and retraining schemes to help older workers with upskilling and new technology.

More than three-fifths (65%) felt that an ageing and diverse society is a positive thing that should be celebrated.

However, they were mindful of some of the challenges this also presents. For example, nearly nine in 10 (87%) over-50s were aware that health and social care services need to be redesigned to support an ageing population. They believed the cost of this must be borne across all generations, with three-quarters (75%) stating the need for people of all ages to take increased responsibility for planning and preparing financially for living longer.

The research was commissioned as part of the government’s Ageing Society Grand Challenge, which is calling for businesses to promote the benefits of hiring older workers, and to recognise that flexible working arrangements are key. As part of the strategy the government is investing £300 million to develop technologies to support the ageing workforce.

Patrick Thomson, senior programme manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, said that flexible working could allow older workers time for care responsibilities and personal health needs.

“It’s not surprising that four in five of those polled want more in the way of flexible working. Our own research shows that only a quarter of workers over the age of 50 feel able to talk to their managers about adjusting their work patterns,” he said.

“Flexible working is important for workers of all ages and is a key component of an age-friendly and inclusive workplace. For older workers, it can help them to balance work with their caring responsibilities or personal health circumstances, help them to remain in work for longer, and enable a phased transition to retirement. Employers benefit from more engaged staff who are likely to stay for longer.”

Thompson added that businesses must work to attract and retain older workers to avoid talent shortages: “Businesses that don’t retain and recruit older workers could face labour and skills shortages as experienced staff leave and there are fewer younger candidates to replace them.”

Employers are often unaware of the benefits older works can bring to the workforce, added Natasha Oppenheim, CEO of No Desire To Retire.

“There are so many older people who want and need to work longer in life. We have thousands of older workers who have no desire to retire and have key skills to contribute to an employer. However, it seems that employers are often unaware of the many benefits an older worker can bring to their organisation as part of a multi-generational workplace," she said.

“Hiring an older worker, who often has decades of sector-relevant knowledge, on a part-time and flexible basis is a great way for a small company or even a start-up to access that wisdom and knowledge in an affordable and scalable way.”

Saga Populus interviewed 12,058 people aged 50 and above between 17 and 24 September 2018.