Age Discrimination Is Costing All Of Us
Australia is losing $10 billion a year because of the reluctance of employers to hire older workers according to research done for the Age Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan. It’s a staggering figure. She says her research also shows that just a three per cent increase in workforce participation among workers aged 55 and over would contribute $33 billion to Australia’s gross domestic product.
The government also wants, and expects, people to work longer into their senior years. The pension age has been raised, and will be raised again. Incentives are offered to employers to keep on workers over 50. Superannuation is now paid to all workers regardless of age. The ageing of the Australian population means there will be fewer working people paying taxes to look after the elderly who can’t work.
What’s more it is illegal to discriminate against people based on their age just as it is for their religion, gender or race.
So with all that, why is there still such enormous workplace discrimination against people over 50? Mrs Ryan’s research found one in ten business people said they would not recruit anyone over 50. Two thirds of age discrimination complaints received at the Human Rights Commission relate to employment.
Of course employers don’t come out directly and say ‘You are too old’. If they did, you’d be well advised to talk to a legal expert about an action for age discrimination. It’s usually more subtle than that though – employers tell older workers they don’t have the required technical skills or their position is made redundant and later find they were just replaced with younger staff.
Employment law specialist at Stacks Law Firm, Nathan Luke, says if an older person feels they have been discriminated against because of their age it would be wise to seek expert legal advice. And age discrimination doesn’t apply only to people over 50 – even young people are discriminated against by replacing them with someone even younger who is paid less. Often the hard part is proving discrimination occurred, but experienced specialists can help.
“A specialist in employment law might pick up on something said or written that could provide enough evidence to pursue a discrimination case. It’s important that employers know the law on age discrimination as they may be breaching the laws without even being aware of it, and a finding against them can be costly.”
But as Susan Ryan says, workplaces are missing out by not including older, more mature workers. Older folk are active and diverse individuals with varied talents and skills.