Older workers facing discrimination

The level of discrimination faced by older Australians has been highlighted in the nation’s first survey on age discrimination at work; with the highest incidence of age discrimination in the population aged between 55 and 64 years old.

Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan said, The National Prevalence Survey of Age Discrimination in the Workplace survey found Australia has a long way to go to break down workplace cultures of age discrimination.

According to the report, "the results also suggest that discrimination is part of the culture of some workplaces and work practices. It is common for Australians aged 50 years and older to witness someone else experiencing age discrimination in the workplace. Further, a substantial number of employers and managers reported that they regularly take an employee’s age into consideration when making decisions about staff."

“The high prevalence of age discrimination in the workplace has obvious and lasting impacts on the health and personal financial security of those trying to get or keep jobs,” said Ryan. “The results show that over a quarter of Australians aged 50 years and over report that they had experienced some form of age discrimination in the last two years, and 80 per cent of those spoke of negative impacts.”

Michael O’Neill, chief executive of National Seniors Australia, said the results should be a wake-up call for policymakers and employers. He is urging businesses to address the issue.

The ageing population represents enormous opportunity, not just as employers, but also consumers. The over sixty-fives now represent some of the wealthiest consumers in the history of the nation.  There is huge opportunity for business to market better services or new industries to this group. 

O’Neill says not a lot has been done to combat ageism, however he believes the market and opportunities will inevitably drive business to make the most of this demographic which will dominate in decades to come.

“Culture will drive the change as they see this age begin to dominate. Companies either get on board or they’ll miss out. It’s important to have regulations in place that limits or prevents discrimination in any form. At the end of the day the biggest driver is the business model. There is an opportunity here and we need to make the most of it.

“Boards must recognise the value of diversity in the workplace,” he adds. “It’s not about employing just young or old or any other group. Older workers bring important experience, loyalty and ownership of task. If directors want to see this first hand, then go to the local Bunnings stores, where more than 25 per cent of employers are over 50. This is a diverse workplace which is effective and profitable.”

Read The The National prevalence survey of age discrimination in the workplace 2015.