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
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
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
"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.
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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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