Tackle Age Discrimination Before Raising Pension To 70
With all the talk of raising the age at which you can receive the pension to 70 there is a real need to change attitudes to keeping the more mature among us in jobs.
Discriminating against someone because of their age is illegal, just as it is illegal to discriminate against someone for their gender, race, colour, sexual preference, physical or mental disability, marital status, family responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion and national or social origin.
The reality is that discrimination can be hard to prove. Employers are rarely stupid enough to openly declare ‘You’re fired because you are too old’. It’s more likely to be someone suggesting early retirement or encouraging voluntary redundancy. Older workers might be not included in training programs or excluded from new projects because the employer thinks they won’t be around much longer.
These can be grounds for taking action through agencies combatting discrimination such as the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board, the Fair Work Ombudsman, Fair Work Australia and the Human Rights Commission.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has just won a landmark case in the Federal Court for a restaurant worker who was told he would be fired on the day he turned 65 as it was the restaurant policy not to employ anybody beyond normal retirement age. The restaurant owners were fined $29,150 and ordered to pay $10,000 compensation to the worker.
A survey has found a third of men over 50 on average salaries had experienced some form of age discrimination. The Fair Work Ombudsman says age discrimination is the fastest growing source of complaints – making 13 per cent of all complaints.
“Discriminating against workers because of their age can have a terrible impact on their self-respect and dignity and deprive them of an equal opportunity to make a positive economic benefit to the company and the wider community,” said Ombudsman Natalie James.
The court decision demonstrates that if someone feels they have been discriminated against over their age it is well worth seeking legal advice on what they can do.
In the restaurant worker’s case there was written evidence, but there may be other circumstances which would enable a case of age discrimination to be brought. It may be resolved through conciliation before it needs to go to court.
The Age Discrimination Act covers situations where someone feels that due to their age they have been refused employment, denied promotion, given less favourable conditions, selected for redundancy or harassed in the workplace.
Employers should have policies in place that aim to prevent discrimination and harassment of both young and mature age workers.