How flex for older workers can help tackle skills shortages
How flex for older workers can help tackle skills shortages - Flexibility Works
July 20, 2023
July 20, 2023

We’ve released new figures today showing one in five older workers don’t currently work flexibly but would like to, something we hope Scottish employers will act upon if they want to recruit and retain highly skilled and knowledgeable workers.

Our figures show that while 58% of Scottish workers aged 55 and over already work flexibly, a further 19% don’t and would like to. Given that about a third of the Scottish workforce is over 50, that means there are tens of thousands of older workers who would like flexibility.  Addressing this could make a significant difference for employers affected by skills shortages.

Demand for part time AND other forms of flex

Unsurprisingly, more than a fifth (22%) of all older workers say their main reason for working flexibly, or wanting to, is to wind down to retirement. A fifth (21%) already work part time hours and a further 9% would like to reduce their hours.

But our figures show other forms of flexible working, that don’t necessarily involve cutting hours, are more in demand and should be considered equally by employers.

One in four (25%) older workers would like more flexible start and finish times, often known as flexitime. That’s nearly three times as many as those who’d like part time hours.

Nearly one in five (18%) older workers would like to work compressed hours, where they carry out their usual weekly hours but in fewer, longer days. The same number (18%) would like more regular home or remote working.

Advice for employers

Our co-founder and director Lisa Gallagher, said: “Our advice for employers, many of whom are facing skills shortages and are struggling to attract and retain highly skilled and experienced older workers, is to talk to your staff and listen to what would make a difference for them in terms of ways of working.

“Much has been said about older workers reducing their hours for so-called ‘part-tirement’ and this can be a great option. But it’s not the only option. Our figures show that many more older workers would like a bit more flexibility over their start and finish, or to compress their usual hours, or work from home a bit more. These could be far easier for employers to implement, and mean they benefit from hiring and retaining more experienced and knowledgeable staff.”

Mike Douglas, Director of Social Enterprises at Age Scotland, added: “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. 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.”

Edward - Flexibility WorksHow flex brought Edward out of retirement

Edward Lindsay retired aged 53 because he hated his banking job with its long, stressful hours and little flexibility. But after two years’ volunteering with Glasgow North West Citizen’s Advice Bureau, and seeing how the charity treated its staff differently, he successfully applied for a full time role and is still there five years later.

Edward, now 60, is a financial inclusion officer working with pupils and families in schools in north west Glasgow. Like most of his colleagues, he works a four day week (32 hours) on full pay (35 hours), and has flexibility on where he works.

Edward said: “I left my old job because the stress wasn’t worth it. But I still wanted to do something useful with my time so I started volunteering with Citizen’s Advice and I saw how accommodating they were.

“My job should feel even more stressful than my old role, given what I’m doing. But it’s not because I have the freedom to organise myself better. I respect the fact I work a four day week. I work hard when I’m there, and then I get to enjoy longer weekends with family and friends. I eat out, spend time reading, go to the movies, watch Celtic play or just have time for more leisurely shopping.

“I’m at a stage in my life where I don’t need to put up with a job I hate. But if I can keep working, as I am now, doing something I enjoy and where I’m trusted, I’m very happy to stay for a while yet.”

Alison Davidson - Flexibility WorksCompressed and hybrid working for Alison

Compressed hours and hybrid working allow Alison Davidson to continue working full time and still have time to spend in her caravan on the Isle of Arran and help look after her new granddaughter.

Alison has worked in local economic development supporting businesses for 25 years, and she draws on this experience in her current role leading Clackmannanshire Council’s economic development team. She works full time hours over 4.5 days.

Alison, 62, said: “I often use my free Friday afternoons to get over to Arran earlier and enjoy more time away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. I usually spend three days a week in the office in Alloa but I can also work remotely, and sometimes I work from the caravan. It makes no difference if I’m there or at home and the change of scenery is great.

“I’m also about to start looking after my nine-month-old granddaughter as my daughter-in-law’s returning to work after maternity leave. My circumstances are such that I can’t afford to stop working yet, but having flexibility means I’ll be able to help with my granddaughter’s childcare, and I’m really looking forward to spending more time with her.

“My job can be quite challenging but I’m up for the challenge because I still have enough time to do the things I enjoy outside work, and I’m trusted to work the way I feel is best for me. I love the buzz of being in the office and catching up with the team but equally if I’ve got reports or minutes to write, being at home, or in the caravan surrounded by the big skies and tranquillity of Arran is even better.”



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