At what age do you no longer need flex working? It is often assumed that people in the later stages of life make little use of this option as their responsibilities have diminished and their stress curves have flattened. Perhaps they are even comfortably retired and are in their rocking chairs watching Gardeners World? The reality is that people are toiling longer than their forebears, thus precipitating a generational change that impacts on how we view and facilitate employment.
Adding up the numbers
With the state pension spiralling upwards, the brutal truth is that many people have no choice but to soldier on. As was demonstrated with the furore that arose when the pension age for women was dramatically raised from 60 to 65, we cannot be sure what the future holds. Flex keeps the older generation in employment and particularly so when health issues rear their head. Agile work formats mean people can avoid the detrimental effects of pension poverty whilst also continuing to contributeto the state and more widely to society.
A Wealth of Experience
The older generation brings much to the workplace in terms of expertise and mentoring that should not be overlooked. By not offering flex working, all these advantages are lost as people step out of the economy taking so much of note and merit with them. Age is as much a protected characteristic under the Equality Act as gender, race or sexuality and should not be viewed as a justification for negatively predetermining talent or capability.
“Offering flexibility to retain the talent of older employees is crucial. Workplaces can then become more diverse andinformed environments. We can all benefit from harnessing decades of valuable experience.”
Stephen Burke, Director of United for All Ages
Artificial age-based constructs help no-one. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, one day we will be judged not on our birth certificates but on the content of our character.
Childcare and Kinship Care
Government statistics indicate that 1 in 4 working families rely on grandparents for childcare and 63% of grandparents with grandchildren under 16 help out with childcare. This is not just about a spot of evening babysitting but rather such assistance plays a critical role in enabling parents to work. The childcare they provide is worth £7.3 billion a year as estimated by the charities Age UK and Grandparents Plus.
When older people can work flexibly, they support the younger generation to achieve their goals and potential. Since the major part of childcare is done by women, this has an impact on how women progress professionally and on issues such as narrowing the gender pay gap.
In complex cases, older family members may come forward in to look after children when the parents cannot, as an alternative to foster care. Flex helps to keep children at home, and it has been shown time and time again that staying with the birth family produces more successful outcomes.
“It is not merely about having a better social upbringing. There is a domino effect for all of us. When, for example, grandparents step in to care instead of the state, they save the taxpayer money and resources. Flex working is a vital part of that process.”
Lucy Peake, CEO of the charity, Kinship
An Unstoppable Demographic
We are living longer and the proportion of the older generation relative to the population as a whole is increasing. Age is not something we can control and (barring a tragic early demise) it will happen to us regardless. We all have a strong vested interest it. Do we really want a system that sabotages our future selves? For harnessing experience, for better family and social relationships, for fairness – that is why flex working is required for the later ages and stages of our lives.