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Shift to home working could benefit older workers and the economy

 

Flexible working could help older people stay working for longer, a charity has said

A charity has said home working could benefit older workers.

Age Scotland has welcomed a move towards more flexible working as a result of the pandemic, saying it could help many older workers who wish to stay in the workforce.

A new report from the Office for National Statistics, released today (25 Aug), found that the shift towards working from home could benefit many older workers, as well as the economy as a whole.

Research has found that flexible working can enable people to stay in the workforce longer. Older workers working entirely from home last summer were more likely to say they planned to retire later.

Stopping work early (between 50 years and State Pension age) can have a negative impact on a person’s financial security in later life. It also harms the economy – if 50-64-year-olds were employed at the same rate as younger workers, this would add an estimated £88 billion to GDP in the UK.

Those who choose to exit the labour market early often do so for reasons such as poor health or caring responsibilities.

However, clearly not everyone is able to work from home, and there are fears that this shift may entrench existing inequalities. Older workers who did not switch to working from home over the past 18 months tended to have poorer health, live in more deprived areas, and have fewer qualifications.

Brian Sloan, Age Scotland’s chief executive, said: “One silver lining of the pandemic could be that the shift towards more flexible working can benefit older workers. Many people leave the workforce early as a result of health issues or caring responsibilities, and this can negatively impact their financial future. Having the option to work from home enables many of them to work for longer, and fit their work around other responsibilities.

“Older people who are able to work flexibly say they have a better work-life balance and improved well-being. Many feel more productive when they are able to work from home, and better able to balance caring responsibilities. They are more likely to retire later, which can benefit both themselves, their employers,  and the wider economy.

“Of course, working from home is not an option for everyone, for example those who work in the hospitality, retail and caring sectors. Worryingly, older workers who could not work from home during the pandemic were likely to have poorer health and lower well-being. It’s absolutely vital that all older workers have the support they need, no matter their role.

“With an ageing population, working later is going to be part of normal life. A third of our workforce is aged over 50 and there are twice as many people aged over 65 in employment as a decade ago, and these figures are only going to grow.

“We hope that employers and the Government will take note and consider the benefits of a more flexible approach to working in later life.  Supporting those who wish to continue working means their skills are not lost and the whole workplace and wider society can benefit from their experience.”

Age Scotland’s Age Inclusive Workplaces training supports employers to tackle ageism and become more inclusive to all ages. 

 

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