How employers can #ChooseToChallenge age-friendly practices for older working women
A life-time of wage and pensions inequalities means that many women approaching later life risk being financially dependent on their partners, and the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on women threatens to compound these issues further.
In this guest blog, Jane Portas, Trustee at the Centre for Ageing Better and co-founder of Insuring Women’s Futures, explains what employers can do to address gender bias in the workplace and help close the gender pension gap.
As we near the end of a week of activity celebrating women’s achievements, and committing to challenge gender bias and inequality, the Centre for Ageing Better is urging employers to #ChoosetoChallenge their approaches to older working women.
As our population ages, we are all working longer. Today, one third of the workforce is over 50, and over the last decade, the number of over 70s working has more than doubled.
Early retirement among women before age 65 has been falling seven times faster than men, largely due to the rise in state pension age. Simultaneously, many women approaching later life increasingly experience financial uncertainties, and the pandemic risks compounding these.
It is widely reported that COVID-19 has significantly impacted young, BAME, older and female workers. Older working women are over one and a half times more likely than their male counterparts to have lost their jobs. Age bias in the workplace combined with their lower digital skills, and greater pressure to support family caring, means many older working women are at risk of permanently leaving the workforce.
As we emerge from the pandemic, taking action now to support older women to stay in work is an imperative for both women, and our economy.
Gender pension gap facing women in later life
The life-time gender earnings gap stands at 41%, and the average man earns £643,000 over his working life compared to the average woman at £380,000.
Men’s greater pension contributions, tax relief, and higher employer contributions, means the difference in men’s and women’s earnings translates to an even wider pensions gap. The average pension pot of a woman age 45 to 54 is less than one third of a man’s, and for a woman age 65 this rises to one fifth. On top of this, long periods out of work for unpaid family caring means women receive £29,000 less than men in state pension over a 20-year period.
Consequently, many women approaching later life risk being financially and pension dependent on their partners, if they have partners. Greater pension freedoms combined with rising divorce rates among those aged 50 plus (with just 14% of divorces resulting in pensions sharing), and increasing numbers of single adult older households, means that women’s ability to work and earn for longer is fundamental to their financial security.
Our old age dependency rate is rising, women outlive men in old age and incur higher care costs. So, enabling older women to achieve financial independence supports all of our financial security.
How employers who #ChoosetoChallenge can level up older female workers
As workplaces re-establish post-pandemic and employers play their part in building back fairer, they can take the following actions to embed inclusive approaches to level up older female workers.
- Use data to inform, and disclose, age-friendly employer policies – Employers can use data to inform age friendly employment approaches. Proactively disclosing the age and gender profile of the workforce, benchmarking progress against ONS averages for the sector, and transparency of policies and practices, supports talent strategies to leverage skills and experience in building the workforce of the future.
- Age and gender inclusive workforce strategies – Ensure retention, redundancy and growth strategies are age and female friendly, and afford equal opportunities for jobs and skills developments at all levels. Employers can use data insights to help ensure approaches are fair.
- Age and female friendly ways of working – Review flexible working policies to ensure they accommodate circumstances experienced by older female workers. This includes flexibility to support healthy wellbeing (such as the menopause and issues related to the pandemic) as well as balanced approaches to level up men and women with elderly and family caring responsibilities.
- Pensions wellbeing in the workplace – Time out, part-time work, and, for many women, multiple jobs, together with pensions dependency means older female workers face many complexities in navigating their finances as they enter retirement. Workplaces can provide invaluable support in conjunction with their pension providers to help equip older workers to make informed and balanced decisions for their later life.