Why it's not just crazy to discriminate against older workers — it's also illegal
Could older workers be under threat? Spokesman for the FiftyUp Club, Christopher Zinn, explains why they're worried! pic.twitter.com/bU9EVF9eNz— Studio 10 (@Studio10au) February 22, 2021
Getting older is one thing but being denied access to work because of your birthdate is quite another, and illegal to boot if it amounts to discrimination.
But how aged does an older worker need to be, in order to either feel or be discriminated against? Not as ancient as you might think.
The question has inflamed FiftyUp members ever since we launched in 2013 and as ever depends on who you ask.
Some people in their forties, let alone their fifties, feel left on the shelf by HR departments. It's ironic the assumption you may be discriminated against can be more debilitating than the actual act.
Last week, the issues reignited when the Federal Shadow Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones highlighted the plight of jobless older Australians before the aged pension kicks in.
📻 Christopher Zinn talks to Radio 2GB & 4BC about jobs and the over-50s 📻
He said there needed to be a much better solution for those aged 55-64 around employment as well as for two other enormous subjects - super and housing - that we will return to another time.
"We've got this silent crisis going on in policy for older workers, and it seems to be invisible, and our policy responses are inadequate," he said. It's an understatement.
My initial reaction was why stop at 64 apart from it being the pithy title of a Beatles song? Access to the age pension is 66 years old and by the way, increases to 66 years and six months on July 1 2021.
There are plenty of Australians who need to keep working to prop up their retirement savings or who want to keep engaged in the world of work for other reasons.
It's well known if work can be flexible in terms of timing and location, it's more attractive to mature workers.
It's also well-known thanks to some research by the Human Rights Commission, which targets discrimination against older workers that various myths are just that.
For example, older people can be cost-effectively trained to use new technologies and are the fastest-growing IT users. And it will come as no surprise to readers that experience is a better indicator of productivity than age.
You can read and delight in the HRC's full list of myth-busting facts here to encourage older workers back into the fray and for employers to give them a go.
In the meantime, there have been government interventions such as the Restart wage subsidy to incentivise business to the tune of $10,000 to employ or retain workers aged over 50.
But it's hardly been a roaring success, and COVID wage subsidies have been aimed at much younger workers.
But the pandemic might yet drive some positive change in this area. If we will be working more remotely and from home surely age, apart from grey-hair on Zoom calls, should be less relevant?
Also given the flexibility this new world of work offers, perhaps it will prove more attractive to older workers too?
Aged discrimination around work is illegal, and while it can be hard to prove and prosecute, employers would do well to realise the risks.
The extension of life expectancy and health in general means many older Australians can and even want to work longer, and the message needs to get through powerfully.
Any information is general advice, it does not take into account your individual circumstances, objectives, financial situation or needs.