From education to employment

Unlocking Opportunities for Over 50s with Flexible Work Support

Older aged man on laptop working outside
  • The Flexible After Fifty report reveals nearly 75% of over-50s want to have flexibility in their work to achieve a better work-life balance, with many also having care responsibilities
  • UK Government Business Champion for Older Workers, Andy Briggs, and leading employer organisations, say flexible working is key to keeping people aged over 50 in fulfilling work, which will in turn help the economy, businesses and individuals
  • The report sets out recommendations for government and businesses to support greater flexible working for over-50s and help more people to stay in meaningful work.

A new report from the 50+ Choices Roundtable shows how businesses, older workers and the wider UK economy would all benefit from employers and government prioritising greater flexibility in the workplace.

The Flexible After Fifty report, from the members of the 50+ Choices Roundtable, shows that nearly three quarters (72%) of over-50s are seeking flexible work to achieve a better work-life balance, with a third (34%) citing caregiving responsibilities and a desire for more personal time as key drivers.

The report also highlights the growing uptake of different forms of flexible working among over-50s, with 33.2% (3.6 million) in the UK engaging in part-time work. Rates of home-working among over-50s have also risen, from 10% in 2020 to 22.4% in 2023, and flexi-time, which allows employees to customise their start and end times within certain limits, is utilised by 12.9% of over-50s in work. Adopting flexible working patterns is key to supporting people aged over 50 to remain in the workforce for longer, if they choose to, with all the benefits that brings.

Ahead of the Flexible Working Act coming into force in April 2024, the report recommends that the government lead by example by monitoring the uptake and effectiveness of flexible working across different age groups. It also recommends that small and medium enterprises or small businesses have better resources to help with implementation of the legislation, and that the government should back the Centre for Ageing Better’s Age Friendly Employer Pledge. The report will be presented to the Minister for Employment to respond to the recommendations.

Recommendations to government and businesses from the Flexible After Fifty report


  • Should lead by example by monitoring the uptake and effectiveness of flexible working. This should be broken down by age.
  • Should provide a range of practical examples for use specifically with over 50s (including case studies) to help illustrate how flexible working can be used to aid retention, retraining and recruitment.
  • Ensure resources on HR support are available for small and medium enterprises or small businesses to help them with the implementation of flexible work legislation, including issues such as phased retirement.
  • Should review the skills and training offering in both Job Centre Plus and via DfE to ensure it can be undertaken on a flexible basis (e.g. apprenticeships/ bootcamps).
  • Back the Centre for Ageing Better’s Age Friendly Employer Pledge.


  • Should actively promote the availability and range of flexible work options to both new and existing employees, monitoring the uptake and effectiveness of flexible working.
  • Should offer support to people managers to better support flexible workers of all ages.
  • Should include promotion of flexible work in all job adverts and/or discuss this early in the recruitment process.
  • Should ensure training and skills opportunities can be taken flexibly.
  • Should actively adopt and sign the Centre for Ageing Better’s Age Friendly Employer Pledge.

Andy Briggs, UK Government Business Champion for Older Workers and Group CEO of Phoenix Group, said:

“With a third of our workforce now aged over 50, this report is published at an incredibly important time. We must capitalise on this generation’s skills and knowledge to help individuals, businesses, and the economy to flourish.

“Many people aged over 50 face significant shortfalls in their pension savings, so helping them to stay in good work and reduce the pension savings gap is essential. This allows them to continue building their savings, and helps avoid a looming retirement crisis, amid widespread under-saving.

“Flexibility is crucial to helping people stay in meaningful work longer, without feeling they need to leave because of challenges associated with health, caring responsibilities, or needing a better work-life balance in later life.

“At Phoenix Group, all our roles are offered on a flexible, hybrid, full and part-time working basis from day 1 of employment and we offer 10 days paid leave to all those with caring responsibilities. I encourage all employers who can to adopt similar policies to increase the recruitment and retention of people aged over 50.

“The report outlines a series of recommendations for businesses and government to support flexible working practices. These recommendations will facilitate more effective recruitment, retention and reskilling of older workers, thereby improving retirement outcomes for these workers, and creating longer, fulfilling working lives. I want to thank all the businesses who contributed to this report, and we look forward to hearing the government’s plans on how they can support more people to work flexibly.”

Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said:

“Flexibility is an important way of working for many people, and it can become even more essential in people’s later years and in balancing other life commitments. Flexibility over working hours, working arrangements and phased retirements are all approaches that can help people to keep working and earning in a positive way.

“This not only benefits the employee but also means that employers can retain skilled, knowledgeable and experienced staff, which is crucial when so many employers are struggling with skills gaps. By being more age-inclusive when recruiting, developing and retaining staff, employers can have a major role in creating more fulfilling working lives.

“Recommendations for businesses and government outlined in the report were created with the input of a range of 50+ Choices roundtable members, including the CIPD, the British Chamber of Commerce; the Federation of Small Businesses, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation; UK Hospitality; Institute of Directors, Make UK; and Business in the Community.”

Sector Response

Shazia Ejaz, Director of Campaigns and Research at REC, said:

“In a tight labour market making sure we find routes to keep people in work for longer is vital. Offering flexibility in how people work and more autonomy over when is a sure incentive for older workers to keep working or even return to work. Many of them will have caring commitments to balance. Agency work is an important part of the mix around older workers being able to work flexibly and consistently. This new research suggests more employers must find a happier medium to increase older employees’ engagement and retain high-quality older talent.

“In a fast-changing economy with Green jobs and AI on the rise many older workers will also be looking for new opportunities. Agency work can offer an effective path to transitioning into different sectors also. With employers looking to hire and many unfilled vacancies there are plenty of opportunities to change career paths. Government could help enable these kinds of transitions by opening up the apprenticeship system so people can access shorter courses to learn new skills.

“Employers also mustn’t stand in their own way when recruiting. They should check their biases around wanting younger workers. Being over 50 is also likely to mean you have a huge amount of expertise and experience to offer any employer.”

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