The TUC said many women in this age group are held back by a ‘rigid’ workplace culture, as they struggle to balance their caring responsibilities with work.
Almost 50% of women over 50 are in part-time work where average wages are less than £10,000 a year, the union said.
Figures show that the gender pay gap is twice as high for over 50s women workers compared to younger women.
Women over 50 often have ‘extensive’ caring responsibilities, such as looking after parents or grand-children, the TUC said. Many of them also work in public administration, education and health, where they feel more at risk from public sector cuts.
TUC calls for paid leave for carers
The TUC said it wanted to see the introduction of paid leave for carers, of up to 10 days a year. It also called for unpaid leave for grandparents and more flexibility in jobs.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said women in their 50s are the first generation to have been protected by equal pay and sex discrimination laws throughout their careers, and are also the first to have access to paid maternity leave.
However, many of them struggle on their return to work due to a lack of flexible working offered by employers, she added.
Ms O’Grady said women over 50 are paid a fifth less per hour than men, with many trapped in low paid work and facing an ever longer wait for their retirement.
She went on: ‘This generation of women has been let down. We need a radical rethink of our workplace culture, which is ill-equipped to cope with the complex work and caring roles that many older women face.
‘New rights to carers leave and adjustment leave to help them cope with sudden emergencies would make a huge difference to women’s working lives, and would also enable employers to keep hold of experienced and often highly qualified staff.’
The TUC polled 4,000 women with caring responsibilities as well as 1,000 grandparents.
Copyright Press Association 2014
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