24 March, 2019

Is age discrimination still an issue in Australia?

Is age discrimination still an issue in Australia?

A report from the Human Rights Commission has revealed 27% of people over the age of 50 had recently experienced discrimination in the workplace. The average length of time unemployed came in at 68 weeks for workers over 54, compared to 30 weeks for 15-24-year-olds.

HR Staff n Stuff HR expert Deborah Peppard told Smart Company last month that she believes Australian business’ attitude towards older workers is “definitely improving”. In fact, she says that in some cases businesses prefer to hire older workers.

“There’s an age of entitlement from the younger generation, and employers are quickly seeing that an older workforce typically [has] a different type of work ethic,” Peppard said.

“They have a better understanding of their responsibility and obligation to their employer. Some businesses think younger workers have a bit of an entitlement handout.”

However, Peppard noted some older workers may start to falter in their responsibilities.

“The biggest question we get is how to get workers progressing towards retirement when they may no longer be contributing to the business to the level the business would like,” she says.

“We found just being honest and open with the employee about their ability to do their tasks was the best approach. Businesses should work with them and be as supportive as they can. You can’t force them to retire, and you can’t discriminate based on their age.”

UK research shows age discrimination rife in workplace

Research from SunLife has shown a huge 62% of people believe they have lost out on a job because of age discrimination. 

Almost half of over 50s also believe they have been overlooked for promotion based on their age.

SunLife marketing director, Ian Atkinson, said: “Age discrimination is still a real challenge facing many people over 50 because of outdated stereotypes and ignorance.

“In reality, many over 50s are far from this pre-conceived idea some areas of society still seem to have of them. It’s also surprising, in a way, that we discriminate against a group we all hope we’ll one day join.”

The research involved the study of 50,000 people aged 50 and over, finding that 28% believe age discrimination is more common than ever before, with 5% saying they felt they had been encouraged, or forced to retire.

Although 51% said that people of any gender face discrimination equally, 34% think it is something that affects women more than men.

“50 is definitely not old, and with life expectancy and retirement age rising year on year, life after 50 certainly doesn’t mean the need to slow down or take it easy – and more brands and businesses need to realise that.”

Australian Human Rights Commission guidelines on age discrimination

The Age Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of age when advertising jobs; during recruitment and selection processes; when making decisions about training, transfer and promotion opportunities; and in the terms, conditions and termination of employment.

Examples of age discrimination could include:

  • Not employing certain people because they won’t ‘fit in’ with other employees because of their age
  • Not employing younger workers because of assumptions that they will quickly move on to another job
  • Advertising a position for someone aged ‘under 30’ to join a ‘dynamic, young team’
  • Making choices around redundancy, or forcing someone to retire, because of his or her age, or harassing or bullying a person because of his or her age.

All types of employers and employment relationships are covered under the ADA, including: Commonwealth Government employees, state government employees and private sector employees; full-time, part-time and casual employees; contract workers and commission agents; as well as apprentices, trainees and those on probation.

It also covers recruitment processes organised through recruitment and employment agencies.

Click here for more information.