The Australian Human Rights Commission yesterday launched a new paper, Working Past Our 60s: Reforming Laws and Policies for the Older Worker that outlines how age limits in workers’ compensation, income insurance and licencing block willing and able people from continuing in work through their 60s and beyond. Diversity Council Australia agrees it’s time to remove these barriers.
“Although most people want to continue to work through their 60s and beyond, they face a number of external barriers,” Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan said. “Recent research tells us that, of people aged over 55 years, there are about two million who are capable and want to work, but are barred from jobs.”
Commissioner Ryan said that most workers compensation stops at 65, or soon after, and income insurance is hard to get after 60.
“This is a big barrier for tradespeople who need to insure their business and themselves,” Ms Ryan said. “For example, age bars in licencing stop capable vehicle drivers from getting jobs, even in the current climate of skills shortages.”
By highlighting how these arrangements affect older workers, Commissioner Ryan hopes to create impetus for reform, in state and Commonwealth government workers compensation schemes and in the private insurance industry.
Nareen Young, DCA’s CEO agreed there is scope for reform to remove these barriers, both in the public and private sectors. She also urged greater effort to change negative attitudes towards older people in the workplace as another major barrier:
“As the population ages, continuing skills shortages and changing labour markets mean that it makes sense to encourage existing mature-age workers to stay at work for longer. We support removal of any barriers that prevent older people from being able to contribute in the workplace. However, this must also be accompanied by a lot more work to address negative attitudes about older workers that are another major barrier to their workforce participation.
“DCA will be contributing to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Issues Paper, Grey Areas: Age Barriers to Work in Commonwealth Laws. Our submission will focus on those areas most directly relevant to our members, in particular employment laws and workers’ compensation laws.
“We will also highlight leading practice initiatives undertaken by our members to attract and retain mature aged workers, so that all employers can follow their lead,” said Ms Young.
Employers can do a lot to make the most of mature-age talent. This includes:
- Showing that you value your employees, whatever age they are;
- Offering flexible working arrangements, including part-time work, job-sharing and other ways of transitioning to retirement;
- Implementing mentoring in the workplace, allowing younger workers to benefit from the experience and knowledge of older workers;
- Facilitating life-long learning including retraining;
- Rewarding effort and having good job design; and
- Succession planning to meet future workforce requirements.
Contact DCA on (02) 9035 2852 or Sydney@dca.org.au for more information about strategies in your organisation to make the most of mature-age talent.