Aging employment and age discrimination

Aging employment market
An aging employment market means five generations are competing

Aging employment: For the first time in history, there are five generations of Australians participating in the workforce at once. While it’s widely acknowledged that Australia has an aging population, what is less commonly appreciated is the pressure for older Australian’s to remain in the workforce. Sadly, age-related discrimination is an ongoing barrier to workforce participation and older people are experiencing discrimination at almost every stage of the employment cycle – from recruitment to termination.

In 2015, the Commonwealth Attorney-General asked the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to launch an inquiry into employment discrimination and participation. The report on the AHRC’s inquiry, called Willing to Work: National Inquiry into Employment Discrimination Against Older Australians and Australians with Disability, was released earlier this year and discussed both the statistical and anecdotal evidence about age discrimination in employment. The report made recommendations about how both governments and employers can make changes to improve workforce participation and limit instances of discrimination.

Of notable significance for employers were the report’s statistics about older people and the recruitment process. In 2015, 27% of people aged over 50 had recently experienced discrimination in the workplace and one third of the most recent episodes reported occurred when an older person was applying for a job as reported by Athena Koelmeyer.

Aging employment and age discrimination

Age discrimination involving recruitment has also been an issue before the courts, including in such cases as the highly publicised decision of Hopper and Others v Virgin Blue Airlines Pty Ltd – Final [2005] QADT 28.

In that decision, a group of experienced former Ansett flight attendants applied for positions with Virgin Blue Airlines. They were invited to the second stage of the recruitment process, a group assessment, but none were successful in making it to the next recruitment round. The flight attendants, aged between 36 and 56, said that Virgin Blue Airlines discriminated against them based on their age by treating them differently than other younger candidates, despite their competency and experience in the industry.

The Anti-Discrimination Tribunal of Queensland agreed with the flight attendants and found the assessors in the group assessment, who were mostly younger, had unintentionally exhibited bias in their selection process and had selected candidates similar to them in terms of age. In doing so, the assessors had discriminated against the older applicants and each of the flight attendants was awarded compensation. To read more click here.

Aging employment will be discussed at The 2016 Australian Long-Term Unemployment Conference; Finding Solutions which will be held on the 1-2 December 2016, at the Mercure in Brisbane. To register for the Conference CLICK HERE.

The conference theme focuses on industry working together with employment agencies to create positive outcomes for Australia’s long-term unemployed.

Speaker Opportunity – call for abstracts

Authors or organisations interested in presenting at the 2016 Australian Long-Term Unemployment Conference are invited to submit a 300 word abstract. To submit an abstract CLICK HERE. Abstracts close 11th August.