Disappointment over Government response on older workers

Campaigners say they are disappointed with the Government’s response to the Women and Equalities Committee’s report on older people which called for legislation to tackle discrimination and for mandatory flexible working.

Older woman at work


The report called for mandatory flexible working for older workers, but the Government says it is proceeding with a voluntary approach in advance of the evaluation of the right to request flexible working which is due in 2019.

The response defers a number of the report’s recommendations to other bodies, for instance, age-based discrimination research to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and tackling recruitment stereotypes to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation. It said more evidence was needed on the benefits of employers publishing the age profile of their workforce and is also researching the benefits of mentors for older workers.

The Government said it was committed to explore the case for statutory carer’s leave and has set up a working group to take this forward. It is also looking at the question of employment rights for carers alongside existing employment rights and will set out its plans “in due course”.

The Department of Work and Pensions is exploring options for a career review with a pilot to run this autumn and the findings and recommendations will be shared with other Government departments later in the year.

Raising the profile of older workers

The Government is also currently exploring the level of demand and potential delivery options for a mid-life MOT, working with other organisations with regard to raising the profile of older workers and on retraining referred the Women and Equalities Committee to its plans for a National Retraining Scheme announced in the Autumn Budget 2017.

Maria Miller, the chair of the women and equalities committee,  said: “Without effective intervention from the government and EHRC, we cannot see how discriminatory practices against older people in employment, that we know are rife, will be tackled. That’s why I find the responses we have received disappointing, as we had hoped they would have worked together to agree specific enforcement actions across both the public and private sectors.”

Meanwhile, a report from the Home Affairs Select Committee on domestic abuse called for the Government to consult on the possibility of introducing domestic abuse leave in the UK. It also stated that there was concern that the default single household payment for Universal Credit could reduce the autonomy of some women, meaning there was “an increased risk of homicide because victims tend to stay with abusive partners for longer when they do not have the financial means to leave”. It recommends that the UK Government should make split payments standard for all couples in England and Wales claiming Universal Credit, in line with the approach taken in Scotland.

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