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Work is Changing and it’s not Just Parents who are Looking for Flexible Working

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This has been submitted by Business in the Community Cymru (BITC)

When we think about flexible working, we think of new parents returning to work or we think about carers. But flexible working is actually for everyone; all employees have the legal right to request flexible working if they’ve worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks.

In the context of a changing economy, the introduction of more technology and different employee expectations, the very nature of how we work is shifting. The traditional nine-to-five is becoming less typical because employees want more flexibility. Employers are also aware they need to be flexible if they want to attract new talent and retain existing employees. Employers who embrace these opportunities – and yes, challenges – can reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and help instil a sense of loyalty.

Business in the Community (BITC) Cymru has teamed up with Welsh Government, Learning and Work Institute and the Older People’s Commissioner for the “People Don’t Have a Best Before Date” campaign, which points out the critical importance of older workers to businesses. It is the latest initiative under the Welsh Government’s Age of Investment drive to ensure Wales has the skills it needs to compete in the global marketplace, both now and in the future.

The need to retain skilled workers has never been more important. Employers of all sizes and sectors recognise that having skilled people employed and in work is good for their business and for the individuals and their communities. In Wales, 33% of employees are aged 50 and over (1); this requires businesses to think about how they may need to change how work is done (or where or when it is done) to retain older workers as well as attract new talent into their company.

In the context of an “always on” culture, driven through an increase in technology at home and work, work-life balance is a key issue for employers. More and more people – of all ages –  need work to fit around their lifestyle. It is imperative businesses recognise this if they are to retain the best workforce. Employee expectations are high and if they see another business offering something that matches their values or expectations of what a business is, they’ll move. In a 2016 UN study of business students (Principles of Responsible Management Education biannual study, 2016), over 90% of them said they would actually be willing to sacrifice some percentage of their future salary to work for a responsible employer which reflects their personal values. (2)

At BITC Cymru we work with business to help them address the challenges and make the most of the opportunities that are ahead of them. The traditional workplace is already changing and employers need to adapt to help workers over the age of 50 thrive through an updated view of what work is and how it can be done.

For employers looking for more information on how they can invest in the skills of their older workers, the Welsh Government’s Skills Gateway for Business – https://businesswales.gov.wales/skillsgateway/ has a range of advice and guidance.