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Age Discrimination in Employment

Age Discrimination
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The right to work is a fundamental human right, but one that far too many older people in Australia do not enjoy.

In 2016 the Australian Human Rights Commission released its report, Willing to Work: National Inquiry into Employment Discrimination against Older Australians and Australians with Disability.

The Inquiry found that too many people are shut out of work because of underlying assumptions, stereotypes or myths associated with their age. These beliefs lead to discriminatory behaviours during recruitment, in the workplace and in decisions about training, promotion and retirement, voluntary and involuntary. The cost and impact of this is high, for individuals and for our economy.

It is unthinkable that people who lose their jobs in their 50s may live up to another forty years without paid employment.

It is essential to encourage Australians to work for longer, to improve their skills and employability and to remove the barriers to later-life employment.

The Inquiry recommended a range of practical strategies and new systematic monitoring of progress and outcomes, to be underpinned by community education and awareness, supported by accessible information and the removal of policy barriers.

Former Age Discrimination Commissioner, the Hon Dr Kay Patterson AO, led several projects in the area of older workers to implement recommendations from the Commission’s Willing to Work report and promote the benefits of multigenerational workforces more broadly:

  • A training module for managers on the rights of older workers, which we delivered in 10 half-day sessions in 2019, and 25 further sessions in 2020, is now available to complete online via the Commission's Older Workers Resource Hub.
  • A longstanding collaboration with the Australian HR Institute (AHRI), which has resulted in attitudinal surveys investigating organisations' strategies to recruit and retain older workers spanning over multiple years. Utilising data collected from similar surveys conducted in 2012, 2014, 20182021 and 2023

  • A toolkit for mature workers developed in conjunction with the NSW Department of Communities and Justice which is being expanded currently to include tip sheets and other resources. 

  • Dr Patterson served as Chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Mature Age Employment, which brought together key industry and government stakeholders. The Partnership was established in 2018 and used its breadth of influence to increase the workforce participation of older workers, promote the benefits of an age-diverse workforce, and contribute to reducing age discrimination. 

During her term, Dr Patterson engaged with stakeholder groups across industries, including government, banking and other sectors, to discuss strategies and best practices to foster age inclusion in the workforce.