The most recent study into age discrimination has found more than three in 10 Australians aged 45 and over have experienced age discrimination while employed, or looking for work in the past year.
The national survey of 2,100 men and women was conducted by the University of South Australia, and found older workers faced limited employment, training and promotional opportunities.
Jessica Irving is the study’s author, and says industries where age discrimination was particularly common included construction, administrative services, education, manufacturing, essential services, information technology and professional service industries.
“Older adults in our study described a subtle pressure from their colleagues and management to stop working to make room for the younger generation,” Ms Irving said.
“Workers also found patronising attitudes where employers or colleagues assumed they would struggle to pick up new technology or work systems quickly due to their age,” she said.
Older workers have reported using strategies such as concealing their age, even spending money on cosmetic surgery to maintain a youthful appearance.
It is against the law to discriminate against somebody based on age, says Miles Heffernan from employee advocacy company Discrimination Claims.
“It’s said that workers hit their 50s they walk into the glass trapdoor, where they move from boardroom to boredom, as they are ignored for workplace opportunities for younger, shinier models,” he said.
In one case study, the Fair Work Ombudsman took a Gold Coast restaurant owner to court after they fired a long-term employee on his 65th birthday.
In a written response to the company, the employee argued, “It must be pointed out, my effectiveness as a food and beverage attendant when I turn 65 is no less than my effectiveness at the age of 64.”
The restaurant operators were fined $29,150 for contraventions of age discrimination and record-keeping laws.
The Court also ordered the company to pay $10,000 compensation to the former employee.
“Discrimination on the basis of age is unlawful and it is also stupid,” Mr Heffernan said.
“Talented workers are being overlooked for perceived benefits that don’t play out in real life.
“So while there are heavy penalties, the real injustice is dumb employers making dumb decisions that see grey hair out of their business.”
If you believe you have been discriminated in the workplace because of your age, you could be entitled to compensation or reinstatement. Please call Discrimination Claims on 1300 853 837 for a confidential chat about your options.