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Consultation response | Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into older people and employment

Flexible working
Older people and employment inquiry
A response from Dr Jane Parry, Lecturer in Gerontology, Centre for Research on Ageing
University of Southampton | April 2017


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Written evidence submitted by Dr Jane Parry, Lecturer in Gerontology, Centre for Research on Ageing


My research on employers, older workers and the right to request flexible working (2017) has indicated that flexible working is already being used to extend working lives, promote older workers’ quality of life, and stabilise employers’ business model.  However, there is much to be done in terms of enhancing its accessibility to older workers: take up is currently patchy linked to low knowledge of the legislation, but more so due to managerial opposition, which is in part linked to inexperience around job design.

The evidence base indicates that employers have significantly more discretion than individuals regarding the nature of older workers’ retirements (Vickerstaff, 2006).  In other words, a significant group of older people are leaving the labour force early because of institutional barriers to working, rather than because they are actively choosing to retire.  An employer-led policy approach to extending working lives will consequently be an effective one in terms of driving change.  Flexible work provides a key tool around this, potentially enabling older workers to negotiate different ways of working that can be maintained around their other commitments or circumstances, and critically also allowing them to maintain their pension contributions and thus protect against poverty in retirement. 

The Marmot report has identified a strong socio-economic differential in early labour force exit, and with state pension age rising to 68, Marmot estimated that ¾ of the population would have already experience some kind of disability by this point in their lives (Marmot, 2010). Such circumstances will limit their ability to work in particular ways, and lifelong expectations about working may have to be re-evaluated in the context of changing health. 


Dr Jane Parry



Marmot, M . (2010) Fair Society, Healthy Lives: A Strategic Review of Health Inequalities in England Post-2010.

Parry, J. (2017) Employers, the right to request flexible working and older workers: Research Briefing, University of Southampton, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.11827.84005.

Vickerstaff, S. (2006) ‘‘I’d rather keep running to the end and then jump off the cliff’. Retirement decisions: who decides?’, Journal of Social Policy.  35 (3): 455-472.


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