None of us are getting any younger and, with the government
pushing to keep us working beyond the traditional retirement age,
sooner or later the matter of age discrimination could be of
concern to us.
The Fair Work Ombudsman says age discrimination is their fastest
source of complaints. There was a 46 per cent increase in
complaints about discrimination of all types last year. Complaints
about age discrimination made up 13 per cent of those complaints,
an increase of 6 per cent. Age discrimination is now the second
largest group of complaints after people with physical or mental
The Australian Human Rights Commission reported a 65 per cent
rise in inquiries about age discrimination last year and a 44 per
cent increase in formal complaints.
A survey by the Financial Services Council of male workers aged
50 and over on average salaries found a third had experienced age
The newly appointed Age Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan,
says discrimination could be someone suggesting early retirement or
excluding an older worker from training in new technology because
they think they won't be around much longer.
But research found only a small number were prepared to lodge
complaints because many feared at their age they wouldn't be
able to find another job.
There are several places you can go if you believe you are being
discriminated against on any of these grounds: age, race, colour,
sex, sexual preference, physical or mental disability, marital
status, family responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political
opinion and national or social origin.
Of course claiming discrimination and proving it are two very
different things. There aren't many employers stupid enough to
say: "I want you to leave because you're too old for the
job." And of course some jobs can't be done as well by
older folk, such as hard physical work. An employer has the right
to appoint people they think are best suited for a position but
they can't discriminate against anybody.
This is why it's a good idea to get advice from a lawyer.
They might say you don't have a case under the law and save you
a lot of time and money. But they may see you have a case and know
how best to pursue it.
There are several bodies combatting age and other forms of
discrimination: The NSW Anti-Discrimination Board, the Fair Work
Ombudsman, Fair Work Australia and the Human Rights Commission.
A quirk of the law is that federal judges are the only group who
have a compulsory retirement age of 70. For the rest of us
there's no age limit. If we want, we have the right to work
till we drop.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
Australian employees receive certain entitlements (such as annual leave and superannuation) where contractors do not.
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