The State Pension Age is gradually creeping up and public concern over the growth in numbers of older people always seems to be in the news: by the mid 2030s, people aged 50 and over will make up more than 50% of the adult population. So the Government has published a new document called ‘Fulfilling Working Lives: A Partnership Approach’ which focusses on the many issues around older people in the workplace. On a positive note, we are told ‘most people are healthier for longer and so are able to extend their careers and take up new opportunities’ and ‘good work is important financially but is also a major source of social connections, good health and provides a sense of purpose’. Businesses are being told to step up and retain and recruit older workers. JobCentres are going to have Older Claimant Champions.
Where do carers fit into this new focus on continuing paid employment into older age? The likelihood of being a carer increases significantly with age. Currently, three in five adult carers are aged 50 years and over, with the peak age for caring 50-54, this is particularly the case for women. The report specifically refers to carers stating that there is a government aim to support carers, and this will be articulated through the cross government new Carers Strategy – we’re all waiting to hear what that has to say.
But the report asks employers to offer appropriate work for carers where they ‘encourage flexible/agile/dynamic working for carers, together with practical support, in order to help them balance their work and caring responsibilities and align to a focus on productivity rather than actual working hours’.
For people working with carers and supporting them in retaining employment, it feels like aligning to ‘productivity rather than actual working hours’ is something to strive for, but there’s probably not a great deal of it around in private sector organisations yet. The Carers Leeds Working Carers project will be continuing to work with businesses in Leeds to make sure that carers in employment get the support they need.
So, together with Age UK, maybe we welcome policies which discourage age discrimination and encourage employment for people regardless of their age.