O’Grady calls on government to provide stronger flexible working rights, particularly for those with caring responsibilities

Tim Lezard

TUC LogoMore than two in five women workers over 50 want fewer hours in their current job, according to a new TUC analysis published today to mark the final day of TUC Women’s Conference.

While the recession has been characterised by rising under-employment – people doing part-time jobs but wanting full-time work or more hours in their current job –the TUC analysis of official statistics shows that too many hours is also a big issue, particularly for older women.

Around two in five women (40.1 per cent) aged 50-64 say they want fewer hours in their current job. This rate falls for women aged 20-34, three in ten (30.3 per cent) of whom want less hours.

The fact that so many women are unable to work fewer hours in their current job shows that the widespread demand for more flexible work is not being met, says the TUC.

The TUC believes that the desire to work fewer hours is greater for women over 50 as many have to balance work with looking after grandchildren, parents or children of their own.

Too many people wanting fewer hours at work have to move into low-paid part-time jobs, rather than working fewer or more flexible hours with their current employer, says the TUC.

While nearly half of all women over 50 have part-time jobs, much of the work is very low paid. The majority of women over 50 in part-time work earn less than £10,000 a year.

The analysis shows that women over 50 are most likely to want fewer hours at work in the South East (50.5 per cent want fewer hours), and are least likely to in Northern Ireland (28.9 per cent).

Some women are managing to reduce their hours, says the TUC, as the average number of hours worked per week falls from 33.1 hours for 50-54 year olds to 26.7 hours for 60-64 year olds.

The analysis is the latest in a series of reports for the TUC’s Age Immaterial campaign which focuses on issues facing women over 50 at work. Recent TUC research found that the gender pay gap is twice as high for women over 50 (18.4 per cent, compared to 9.6 per cent for all workers).

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “While under-employment is a big issue for many workers today, there are millions of people that actually want fewer hours at work.

“The need to work fewer hours is particularly acute for the millions of women over 50 who have to balance work with multiple caring responsibilities.

“Unfortunately too many employers don’t recognise any caring roles beyond motherhood, forcing many older women to trade down jobs in order to look after grandchildren, older kids or their own parents.

“As the population ages and people are expected to work for longer, the caring demands on women over 50 in work are only going to increase. Helping the two in five women over 50 who want fewer hours in their job is vital to meeting this demand.

“Providing more high quality flexible and part-time work will help more women over 50 to look after loved ones while continuing their careers. Employers would also benefit by holding on to talented and experienced staff.

“The government can play its part too by providing stronger flexible working rights, particularly for those caring for parents and grandkids.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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