Employers should not write off older female workers quite so readily

An ageing population and changes to the default state pension age mean employers need to better prepare for the needs of older women in the workplace, according to a study by Anglia Ruskin University published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). With more and more women aged between 50 and 65 now employed, the research reviewed published literature to look into the experience of those workers and how their needs might change in the future.

The report examined 27 UK studies and found evidence of older women failing to reach their potential, either through making compromises earlier in their career, perhaps to have a family, or through a lack of education or training. With unemployment among this group at its highest since the mid-1990s, there is also concern about discrimination by employers.

The average age of women leaving employment is 62.3, compared to 64.6 for men, and as the state pension age rises, there are concerns about women falling into poverty.

Currently 20 percent of women aged between 45 and 59 are carers who would like to work but are classed as economically inactive.

Researchers also found that 47 percent of the workforce classified as LoPAQ (low pay, low skills and few qualifications) are women, chiefly working in the so-called ‘five Cs’ – cleaning, catering, cashier, clerical and caring – and have had little attention paid to their later-life career support or training to provide a more secure future.

Dr Diane Keeble-Ramsay, lead author of the study and Deputy Director of the Positive Ageing Research Institute (PARI) at Anglia Ruskin University, said: “A common concern for older women is societal invisibility and a shift in attitudes towards a workforce who at entering the menopause may now have another 20 years of employment ahead of them, is needed.

“This workforce may have their careers limited during the periods of mothering, but may be ripe for development for work where current skills shortages exist. There are plenty of opportunities for this age group and their needs should be paid greater importance.

“Also, by failing to meet the needs of lower paid employees, with people living longer we are potentially creating a burden on the state when they retire, which is often before time due to a lack of job security, sexism or lack of fulfilment.

“They are often doing jobs that technology is unlikely to replace, so it is of paramount importance that more research is done into the challenges they face.”