Flexible work discriminates against older staff
Filed under: Career
A new survey reveals that they're not happy with the arrangements, but are they fair?
UnhappyThe research, from workplace information and software firm Croner, found that 27% of UK workers aged between 45 and 54 who work with other people, think their employers put their colleagues who have children or families first. This figure is even higher in some parts of the country. In Yorkshire and the Humber, almost a third think they are discriminated again.
The root of the problem is flexible working legislation introduced back in 2003. It gives those who have children the statutory right to request flexible working. Their employer doesn't have to agree to it, but there's a framework and a set of rules they have to follow if they want to refuse - which is designed to ensure they give every request proper consideration.
Those whose children were over 17 when the legislation came in, and those who have never had children, are denied this right, and some are decidedly unhappy abut it.
Is it fair?Your answer will probably depend on whether you have this right or not, and whether you would take advantage anyway. There's a strong argument that just because life was tough for those who had young families in previous generations, it doesn't mean it has to remain so hard.
There is also a strong argument that it is good for individuals and for business. A recent survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that a large proportion of employers believe flexible working to be beneficial. Three-quarters (76%) of organisations say that flexible working supports employee retention, 73% believe that it boosts motivation and 72% say that it increases engagement.
Expand itThe question is why we don't all have the right to request flexible working - to fit around whatever responsibilities and commitments we have in our lives.
It doesn't help that the government floated the idea of extending the right to request flexible working to everyone in May last year - and then changed its mind. The government insists its still in the pipeline, and that legislation will be in place in a couple of years, but that remains to be seen.
Carol Smith, a senior employment consultant at Croner, says: "There is no doubt that flexible working for people with families is a good thing.The Government has done much to improve and modernise UK legislation so that more people can work flexibly to improve their work-life balance. However it is not good news for the UK's older workers after the Government shelved plans to extend flexible working."
She called on employers to take the lead and offer it anyway, as an opportunity to build a more flexible and engaged workforce. She added: "This will not only help to avoid possible workplace conflict but improve employee relations, help with recruitment and retaining staff and almost certainly improve productivity.
The good news is that many organisations already offer this. Debi O'Donovan, editor of Employee Benefits magazine says: "We have seen an increase in the number of employers offering flexible working to all employees. In some instances it was a policy introduced in order to save money and preserve jobs at the beginning of the recession. There was an economic driver, but over the intervening period many have discovered a broader business benefit."