Age discrimination is rife in Australian workplaces despite being unlawful, according to new government research.
The Employing Older Workers report by the Australian Human Rights Commission found almost a third of employers continue to specify an age limit on job applicants, despite the practice being illegal.
In addition, 30 percent of those businesses will not employ anyone over 50, despite two-thirds acknowledging this practice results in the loss of valuable skills and intellectual property.
Older Australians being forced onto unemployment benefits
The result of age discrimination is that older Australians are being forced to apply for unemployment benefits and are using up their savings before retirement.
For women, age discrimination is particularly hard.
Not only do they have to deal with a life-long gender pay gap, they also end up with less superannuation.
A national crisis
Older worker advocate Ian Yates from COTA Australia, described that situation as “a national crisis when 34 percent of the population is being dismissed arbitrarily, and a huge wealth of knowledge is being lost as a result.”
“At age 50 many workers are still optimising what they have to offer employers after several decades of honing skills,” he said.
“The report shows employers recognise the value an experienced older works brings and the professional knowledge they possess, and more respondents across all categories said there was no difference between the generations at work.
“Despite this, tens of thousands of mature, well-qualified Australians are still being ruled out on the basis of their age, before they even have the chance to demonstrate they have the skills, experience and ability to do the job.
“This is all illegal under the Age Discrimination Act – who is letting them off the hook?”
Yates is calling on the government to bolster programs announced in the May budget designed to increase workplace participation for older Australians.
“On these figures, Prime Minister Scott Morrison will be struggling to find an employer to take him on if he loses the next Federal election – the odds are they won’t want him because he’s over 50,” Yates said.
Dumping older workers ‘short-sighted’
Miles Heffernan, Litigation Director at Discrimination Claims, said dumping older workers is a short-sighted strategy for businesses.
“You would have to be stupid to write off knowledge and experience and skills, simply because someone hits a certain number of birthdays,” he said.
“Our population is ageing, which means we are living longer, which means older Australians will be able to contribute to the workforce for longer – so the way we think about older workers needs to change.”
Mr Yates is calling for those who break the law by discriminating against older workers to be punished.
“Let’s not pussyfoot around — it’s illegal to discriminate against employees on the basis of their age but the government is letting a third of Australia’s employers do it without sanction — and we suspect some of those employers are government agencies. It’s time to stop the rot and change the culture,” he said.
READ MORE: What is discrimination
If you have experienced discrimination based on your age, you may be entitled to compensation.
For help, please call our team at Discrimination Claims today on
1300 853 837
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