More older women in the workforce

by 08 Jul 2008

THE NUMBER of women in the workplace over the age of 55 will increase by 19 per cent between now and 2012.

Australia’s overall workforce participation rate will decrease in the next four years, and of the workforce that will be available, 17 per cent will be over the age of 55, according to a recent report.

The report, Workplace 2012, says the flexible working arrangements announced as part of the Government’s ten National Employment Standards will therefore be a key factor in utilising this ageing workforce.

“Australians aged 55 plus, particularly women, will be an important part of the answer to the current skills shortage and flexible working arrangements will be essential in attracting, retaining, and developing these workers,” said David Anderson, worldwide partner at Mercer who released the report.

“Now is the time for employers to redefine the job and increase flexibility to improve productivity and output for the employee and employer respectively.”

The need for greater flexibility in working arrangements has been formally recognised in industrial relations policy – signifying a shift in how Australians may work in the future. Flexible working arrangements are one of the Government’s 10 National Employment Standards (NES) which will be used as the basis for the Government’s award modernisation process.

Under the new standards, staff will be entitled to request flexible working hours when they have been with the employer for at least 12 months of continuous service, and an employer will need “reasonable business grounds”to refuse.

Anderson believes that flexibility in the workplace, particularly for valued employees, has to be part of every employer’s battle plan if they want to maintain the workforce they need to remain viable – let alone grow.

“Flexible working arrangements and benefits will become increasingly important for employers trying to attract and retain workers whilst battling a critical skills shortage and a generation of experienced workers on the verge of retirement,” he said. “Australian employers who refuse to offer employees flexibility in terms of working hours, working arrangements, and benefits will jeopardise their ability to attract and keep workers – particularly older workers.”

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