Older women ‘let down’ by unsympathetic work culture

By: Information Daily Staff Writer
Published: Thursday, February 27, 2014 – 09:51 GMT      


Many women aged over 50 who are facing elderly care responsibilities will end their working lives in low-paid positions due to a “rigid workplace culture”, the TUC says.

Many middle-aged women are “trapped” in low-paid, part-time positions as they struggle to manage work, elderly care and child care responsibilities, a national trade union centre report has warned.

As average UK life expectancy continues its rise, immense pressure is being placed on the public sector, particularly in health and adult social care environments.

The report reveals that women in the 50+ age group are currently bearing the brunt of responsibility in meeting the needs of elderly relatives, with almost half (49 per cent) caring for a parent.

Compounding this, 39 per cent care for their own children, 19 per cent care for an elderly family member other than a parent, and 9 per cent care for a disabled partner.

Consequently, the report warns that gender disparity in pay is twice as significant in the 50+ age group than it is for younger women, as many settle for part-time positions with a salary below £10,000 a year.

Older women are also particularly threatened by cuts to the public sector, as the “majority of women” aged 50-64 work in public administration, education and health. Many fear redundancy.

The TUC has compiled a list of recommendations for employers to accompany the report, which the organisation believes will encourage a more “enlightened attitude” to those with caring responsibilities.

The report urges employers to offer five to ten days of paid caring leave per year, an unpaid leave entitlement for grandparents, and a period of statutory adjustment leave for those adapting to new caring responsibilities.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Women over 50 are paid a fifth less per hour than men, and many are trapped in low-paid work, with an ever-longer wait for their retirement. This generation of women has been let down.

“We need a radical rethink of our workplace culture, which is ill-equipped to cope with the complex work and caring roles that many older women face.

“New rights to carers leave and adjustment leave to help them cope with sudden emergencies would make a huge difference to women’s working lives, and would also enable employers to keep hold of experienced and often highly qualified staff”