For ‘Fuller Working Lives’ – Practical Support is RequiredWhen the Department for Work & Pensions recently published their Fuller Working Lives -A Partnership Approach agenda, the statistics quoted certainly gave pause for thought.

  • In 2010, 1 in 4 of the working age population were aged 50 or over – this is projected to increase to 1 in 3 by 2022
  • 1 in 4 men and 1 in 3 women reaching State Pension age have not worked for 5 years or more
  • There are almost 1 million individuals aged 50-64 that are not in employment but state that they are willing or would like to work

The Government’s approach to combatting workforce drop out of mature talent is the creation of a Business in the Community (BiTC) Age at Work leadership team to support employers to retain, retrain and recruit older workers – offering new skills, training, mentoring and additional incentives. This is a valid route – however, it’s important to remember that whilst some people may wish to stay in the workforce for longer, it is also clear from the government’s (and our own) research that for some individuals there is no choice at all.

There is a very real issue in today’s workforce of families who are having to cope with the needs of elderly parents and of teenage and younger children - many families are struggling to juggle multiple layers of family care requirements whilst earning a living wage.  Employers for Carers research has shown that there is a tangible talent drain at certain key points –  in fact, an estimated 1 in 9 of the current workforce are caring for a family member right now. Our own Modern Families Index (created in conjunction with charity Working Families) showed that a significant amount of families surveyed anticipated caring for an elderly relative within the next 5 years.

One aspect of the Fuller Lives agenda that we were pleased to see was the government pledging their support for groups need additional help with staying at work – in particular women and carers.  We support the introduction of more flexible working for carers (focusing on productivity rather than working specific hours at set locations) and we also believe that employers can support directly through supplying mature workers with benefits that will make a real difference to them.

For example, employer sponsored back-up care is a practical support - giving employees who need to be present at specific times access to a network of high-quality childcare and eldercare for when their usual care arrangements break down. This is ideal for older working families who are struggling with multiple generations of care requirements. For any employer serious about retaining talented families who are struggling to balance the needs of their families and their career, we’d encourage you to take a look at the Care Advantage Programme from Bright Horizons as part of your own recruitment and retention strategy.

If the government and employers are genuinely serious about creating Fuller Working Lives (as opposed to just longer working lives) then acknowledging and supporting the family care requirements of employees is paramount.

Joanna Thubron, Bright Horizons