Older workers could retire later if allowed to work from home

Older workers might choose to delay their retirement if offered the option of continuing to do their jobs from home after the pandemic, new research has indicated.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found those in their 50s and 60s who were working from home during the coronavirus crisis said they were planning to retire later than those who were still travelling to their workplace.

It could have a positive knock-on effect for those who are able to work remotely, and grow the economy.

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The age at which a person retires has implications for their financial security, the ONS said.

It added that more than 5% could be added to UK gross domestic product (GDP) if those aged 50 to 64 were employed at the same level as 35 to 49-year-olds.

However, not everyone is able to work from home, and the circumstances of those unable to do their jobs remotely during the pandemic make them more likely to stop working early.

They are more likely to live in deprived areas, be in poor health, have lower or no qualifications, and experience lower wellbeing.

If home-workers are able to stay in the labour market longer, it could entrench these inequalities, the ONS said.

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However, remote working offers huge benefits for those able to do so.

In a 2018 poll commissioned by the Government, 78% of over-50s said employers should introduce flexible working.

And when asked in May and April this year, workers aged 50 to 69 reported that it improved their work/life balance and wellbeing, the ONS said.

Millions of employees switched to home-working during the pandemic, to slow the spread of Covid-19 across the world.

For those who could not do their job from home, and who did not work for an organisation which was allowed to stay open, the Government paid up to 80% of their salaries through the furlough scheme.

Louise Ansari, at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “It’s vital that the move towards more flexible working for some doesn’t entrench inequalities.

“These figures highlight the importance of Government bringing forward measures in the Employment Bill to give all workers the right to flexible working so no-one is forced out of work early due to health conditions or caring responsibilities.”