On 1 October 2019, the Economic & Social Research Institute ("ESRI") released a report entitled 'The Ageing Workforce in Ireland: Working conditions, health and extending working lives'. The ESRI estimate that nearly 20% of the Irish labour market is comprised of workers aged 55 and over ("Older Workers").
According to our recent Age in the Workplace Report, approximately 61% of those surveyed believed that they will have to work over the age of 66 which is the current state pension age.
The ESRI note that retention rates of Older Workers in the labour market in Ireland is higher than in other OECD countries. However, it has found that there is a significant cohort of early leavers aged between 54 and 59 which is hampering efforts to increase Older Worker workforce participation rates.
One of the key findings in this regard is that women are five times more likely to leave work early/retire in order to care for family members. The ESRI also found that "those who experience an imbalance between work and other demands (including caring) are less likely to believe they can work longer".
At our recent event on 'Work-Life Integration - Protective Leave and Flexible Working Arrangements', we highlighted the use of flexible working policies as an important means of providing Older Workers with the opportunity to extend their working life. In order to be effective, such policies must take account of the various push and pull factors on employees which can lead to early retirement.
Employers could also consider introducing a retirement policy if they have not done so already. The policy should be drafted in light of the Code of Practice on Longer Working which provides guidance in respect of engagement between employers and employees prior to retirement, including how to deal with requests to continue working beyond the employer's retirement age.
The need to increase opportunities for flexible working has been recognised at a European level with recent approval of a Directive on Work-Life Balance for Parents and Carers. At a national level, parental leave was increased last month from 18 to 22 weeks and is set to increase to 26 weeks in September 2020.