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How flexible working and other measures can help retain older workers

Older female mentor training younger employee

Employees over the age of 50 can be a valuable asset, offering a wide range of experience and skills. So it makes sense to create a supportive environment to help retain your older employees and perhaps attract other experienced workers to join your organisation.

In the last year, one in ten (10%) employers in the UK have introduced support for retaining employees over the age of 50, according to research by Aviva.

This can range from additional skills training, mid-life MOTs and flexible working arrangements to workplace adjustments for women experiencing menopause symptoms.

It's important that over-50s are supported by employers in a way that recognises their individual needs, said Debbie Bullock, head of Wellbeing at Aviva.

"Improving retention rates can be supported by apprenticeship programmes, which offer an opportunity to re-skill, and mid-life MOTs, which are a free check-up of your wealth, work and wellbeing. It is also worth considering options for job-sharing, 'part-tirement', and seasonal working to cover peak times."

Flexible working

One in five older workers don't currently work on a flexible basis but are interested in doing so, new research reveals.

A survey by Flexibility Works, a social business based in Scotland, found that while 58% of Scottish workers aged 55 and over already work flexibly, a further 19% don't and would like to.

One reason is wanting to wind down to retirement. Currently, 21% of older employees in Scotland already work part-time hours and a further 9% would like to reduce their hours.

However, other forms of flexible working -- that don't necessarily involve cutting hours -- are also in demand. For instance, one in four older workers would like more flexible start and finish times, while nearly one in five would like to work their usual weekly hours but in fewer, longer days, and to work more regularly from home.

"Older workers contribute a huge amount to the economy and to employers in terms of experience, life skills and knowledge that can be shared with younger colleagues," said Mike Douglas, director of Social Enterprises at Age Scotland. "But many older workers would prefer to work flexibly, perhaps because they have competing demands on their time, and if employers don't offer flexible working, they risk losing some of their most valuable and irreplaceable staff."

Menopause support

Something else to consider when it comes to supporting older workers is whether your organisation offers a 'menopause friendly' working environment which could help women stay in work.

Research by BSI found that 29% of UK women expect to leave work before retirement, with 42% expecting this to be due to health or well-being and 20% specifically citing menopause.

Flexible working is viewed as the most helpful adjustment when managing menopause symptoms at work, according to HR body the CIPD. Other factors that help employees feel supported include:

  • the ability to control local temperature
  • last-minute or unplanned late starts after sleep disturbance
  • a healthy and open workplace culture
  • working with female colleagues of a similar age/experiencing menopause symptoms
  • employer awareness raising and training

Additionally, more than two thirds of women felt that a move to more home and hybrid working would make dealing with menopause symptoms easier. However, with an estimated 60% of employees in roles which require them to be in the physical workplace, employers need to consider a range of flexible working options to suit different roles and sectors.

Productivity and performance

"Providing support for a diverse range of wellbeing needs is not just the right thing to do, it also makes sound commercial sense," said Debbie Bullock from Aviva. "When people feel supported by their employer, it helps to alleviate the pressure they might be under and allows them to be their authentic selves when coming into work. This in turn improves morale and motivation, which in turn improves productivity and performance."

Posted by Fidelius on July 31st 2023

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