Older Women

Policy Piece

The article below sets out a snapshot of the current position in Scotland on the topic of Older Working Women.

Policy Development

Our working population is ageing, with more workers aged over 50.  This coupled with the effect of successive raises in the state pension age means that recruiting and retaining older workers in the labour market and work place for longer, will be increasingly important to Scotland’s economic growth.

Women earn significantly less than men over their entire careers for complex, often interrelated reasons, these include: caring responsibilities; more women in low paid work; under-utilisation of skills; men in more senior roles; and outright discrimination.

Older women workers are no exception as we know that the gender pay gap widens with age.

Steps to tackle gender discrimination and inequalities in the workplace have been set out in the Scottish Government’s ‘A fairer Scotland for women: gender pay gap action plan’.  This Action Plan takes a whole system approach, addressing factors at every stage of women’s lives from early learning & childcare through to employment in later life.

Workplace Equality Fund

Our Workplace Equality Fund provides funding to employers and their business partners to improve workplace practices and to reduce employment inequalities, discrimination and barriers for minority ethnic people, women, disabled people and older workers. Since its launch in 2018 the Workplace Equality Fund has provided £750,000 in funding to 22 projects[1].

As noted in our Economic Action Plan we will shortly launch an expanded Workplace Equality Fund 2019 which will provide support to more groups, including support for women transitioning through the menopause and victims of domestic abuse.

Women Returners’ Programme

In 2017-18 we delivered on our commitment for a Returner’s programme to assist women to re-enter the workforce following a career break. Returner programmes can play an important role in bringing experienced women back into their previous career at levels commensurate with their abilities and experience , helping them update skills and knowledge, and enabling employers to gain from retaining skilled staff.

In 2019 we will support up to 2,000 women to return to work after a career break through the new Women Returners Programme 2019 worth £5 million over three years. Projects will be encouraged that support older women.


We know that working age women are most likely to have caring responsibilities and for those in their late 50s and early 60s, nearly a third of women are carers[2]. This is a large and skilled portion of our workforce and it is crucial that we continue to support all carers to establish or maintain meaningful employment. That is why we continue to support and promote the Carer Positive employer accreditation scheme which encourages employers to put in place flexible working practices to support those in their workforce who are balancing caring and employment. As noted in our Gender Pay Gap Action Plan we will also urge the UK Government to strengthen and enforce protection to women and carers against discrimination and dismissal.

Flexible & Family Friendly Working

Flexible working and thinking about job design is crucially important to women who have caring  responsibilities, to disabled women, and for those who wish to change their working patterns as they approach the end of their working life.

We want to encourage employers to normalise flexible working and to recognise that these types of adjustments are reasonable and a necessary part of creating a fairer Scotland and enabling a better work life balance for all employees.

That’s why we are providing £159,000 for 2019-20 to the Family Friendly Working Scotland Partnership to support and promote the development of flexible and agile workplaces across Scotland.

We will also fund a feasibility study for a ‘Centre for Flexible Work’ for Scotland. This Centre, a UK first, would design, test, embed and scale new approaches to increase the availability of quality, flexible work in Scotland.

Living Wage

We continue to promote uptake of the living wage which will benefit older workers financially and has been shown to enhance productivity, reduce absenteeism and improve staff morale.

Scotland remains the best performing of all four UK countries with the highest proportion of employees paid the real Living Wage or more (80.6%): and ahead of a UK figure of 77.2%.  There are now just over 1400 Living Wage accredited employers in Scotland and have set a target of 25,000 additional workers to be paid at least the real living wage by 2021.

Workplace Harassment

We are tackling the issue of sexual harassment both in the workplace and in wider society through Equally Safe, Scotland’s strategy to prevent and eradicate all forms of violence against women and girls. Through the strategy and wider engagement we have been encouraging employers to adopt robust policies and procedures.

Close the Gap are also being supported by the Scottish Government to develop an employer accreditation scheme ‘Equally Safe at Work’ which is in the process of being piloted in 7 councils throughout 2019.

Women transitioning through the menopause

In January 2019 we funded a conference, which was designed by the Scottish  Women’s Convention, to look at women’s lived experience of transitioning through the menopause. The Scottish Government is also funding a Festival of Ageing on 23 May, which will include a “Menopause Café” providing a safe, relaxing environment for delegates and members of the public and businesses to receive information, advice and support

As stated in the Gender Pay Gap Action Plan, we will work with women’s organisations, and trade unions to gain a clearer picture of the issues faced by women transitioning through the menopause to identify other areas where action may need to be taken. This will include work with the STUC women’s committee, building on the results from their survey of employers into practice on supporting workers through the menopause.

The Scottish Government are currently updating our menopause policy into guidance and support for women and their managers. The revised policy will be launched internally this year with awareness raising events for staff and will also be encouraging all employers including other public bodies, to update and/or provide menopause awareness training and guidance.

[1] https://www.impactfundingpartners.com/our-funds/workplace-equality-fund

[2] https://www.gov.scot/publications/scotlands-carers/