Category: Blogger's Corner, unconscious bias, organisation, worker, champion, criticise
Andy Briggs calls for more flexible working options for older employees with caring responsibilities; Age UK says many are ‘scared’ to request different hours.
The government’s new tsar for older workers has criticised the “unconscious bias” of organisations that don’t offer those with caring responsibilities the option to work flexibly.
Andy Briggs, the government’s new business champion for older workers, told The Daily Telegraph that this bias was contributing to the “missing millions” of older workers who want a job but are unable to find one. Briggs, who is also chief executive of Aviva UK and Ireland Life, said many businesses weren’t “geared” towards supporting the flexible working requests – including part-time and home working – of older employees.
“And the person says ‘well okay then, I guess I need to go then, because I’ve got to look after my elderly parents. I’ll have to stop working.’ And they want to work. That is very, very common,” Briggs said.
Christopher Brooks, senior policy manager at charity Age UK, said older employees are often too “scared” to ask for alternative working arrangements.
“Sometimes people feel that if they ask to work flexibly because they have a caring responsibility, or for any other reason, they may be disadvantaged as a result and their employer might put them at the front of the redundancy queue,” said Brooks.
“People are often quite scared to raise it so we need a culture that is more accepting of people having lives outside work, particularly with caring responsibilities, which particularly affects older workers.
“We just need to make sure employers are aware of what the reality is in people’s lives and what they can do to accommodate this, and help people be more productive in the workplace.”
Brooks highlighted the wealth of research demonstrating the benefits that older people bring to the workplace, which is helping to shift attitudes towards older workers.
The CIPD’s Attitudes to employability and talent report found that older workers are perceived as the most talented and employable of all underrepresented demographic groups in the workforce. And recent research from McDonald’s found that employees in multigenerational teams were, on average, 10 per cent happier than those working solely with members of their peer group.
“There is still a long way to go,” said Brooks. “It will take quite a while before we’re in a place where people can feel secure that they won’t be disadvantaged in the workplace because of their age.
“We still hear all the time from older people who feel they have been discriminated against in the workplace because of their age – it can sometimes be quite overt. People have been asked when they are planning to retire directly, or it can be subtle or even at a subconscious level where employers don’t even realise that they are doing it but it has the same effect.”
Meanwhile, Briggs said he wanted organisations to keep data on what proportion of employees are older workers – information that could be made public.
Brooks said he supported this proposal: “I think it’s sensible for employers to be able to hold a general demographic breakdown of their workforce. It’s really beneficial for them to do that because they can see how representative their workforce is of their customers. And it helps them make sure they aren’t unknowingly discriminating against certain groups.”
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