Article by Ceri Wheeldon

is fexible working the way forward for an ageing workforce image


By the time people reach the age at which they can receive their state pension age, only 50% currently are still  working.

With the recent increases in state pension age- especially for women ( listen to my podcast interview with the co-founder of the WASPI campaign, Anne Keen) the challenges of remaining in full time employment are too great  for many– especially if individuals have the added responsibility of caring responsibilities.

Instead of looking other options, such as flexible working, they walk away. At a time when individuals need to work for longer for financial purposes, and businesses and the economy need the talents of the older workforce, should there be more focus on looking at solutions such as flexible working.

Many assume that it is only women with children or carers   that have the right to ask to work flexibly, but in fact since 2014 , every employee who has worked continuously for 26 weeks for their employer has the right to request flexible working arrangements.

Different types of flexible working

Flexible working could include working from home, compressing hours into fewer days, flexible start times, job sharing.  Of course, the nature of the business will dictate what options are feasible. The person making the request must write to their employer with a summary of how their request will impact the business and how their request could reasonably be accommodated. The employer has 3 months in which to respond ( full details as to how to request flexible working are on the DWP website, but employers should have a flexible working policy and so request any standard forms they may have)  As the legislation stands today, an employer can deny the request if there are reasonable grounds to do so, such as any additional costs,  damaging the business, the work not being covered, insufficient work during the proposed hours etc.

However, if employers are serious about retaining older workers it is in everyone’s best interests to find solutions. It is not just women who request flexible working for caring responsibilities – men are also increasingly having to accommodate caring for elderly parents (or partners) . Individuals also want to ‘ease into retirement’ .

In a candidate short marketplace, which will become increasingly more acute with an ageing population and fewer younger people entering the workforce, it is essential that ways of enabling people to work for longer are explored. Increased flexible working is just one option.

If you find yourself under too much pressure juggling work with other responsibilities, explore flexible working options before resigning. It may provide the balance you need – and could also be in the employer’s best interest too.