Today (30 June) marks two years since the Right to Request Flexible Working was extended to all employees who have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks.
Many older workers are combining employment with caring for older relatives and grandchildren. Being able to work flexibly could help you to stay employed when the alternative may be to give up work.
Flexible working can also be used to support a phased retirement. With the end of the Default Retirement Age (which was 65 for most people), you can now usually work for as long as you want to. Your employer may be happy for you to phase your retirement and change to flexible or part-time hours.
39% of over 50s would prefer winding down gradually with part-time or flexible hours for a period of time, rather than retiring altogether.
[DWP – attitudes of the over 50s to fuller working lives (January 2015)]
If you are looking to return to work, flexible working could be used to phase your return or help you combine work with other responsibilities. Whilst the statutory Right to Request Flexible Working only applies to employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service with their current employer, many employers are willing to agree flexible working on an informal basis.
What is ‘flexible working’?
Flexible working describes working arrangements that fall outside the traditional view of work as being full-time and 9 to 5.
Examples of the types of flexible working that you can discuss with your employer include:
- Job sharing: This is when two people do one job and split the hours
- Working from home: It might be possible to do some or all of your work from home or somewhere else other than the normal place of work
- Part-time: Working less than full-time hours (usually by working fewer days).
- Compressed hours: Working full-time hours but over fewer days
- Flexi-time: You can choose when to start and end work (within agreed limits) but work certain ‘core hours’, such as 10am to 4pm every day
- Annualised hours: Working a certain number of hours over the year, but with some flexibility about when you work.
- Staggered hours: You have a different start, finish and break times from other workers.
The opportunity to work flexibly can suit a lot of people in very different circumstances, for example, those with:
- caring responsibilities
- health issues
- a desire to take up new hobbies, volunteer or learn something new
- travel plans
- the desire to spend more time with a partner.
So giving up the 9 to 5 doesn’t have to mean you have to stop work. You can now agree a working pattern that suits you and your employer.
What are the benefits for employers?
Flexible working gives employers access to a wider pool of talent and helps employers to keep skilled and experienced employees in the workplace.
Helping older workers to stay in work for longer, by allowing them to work flexibly or to phase their retirement, can help to:
- retain skills and experience longer
- manage succession through mentoring of new recruits
- match productivity to periods of peak demand
- extend periods of customer service
- keep semi-retired skilled workers on call.