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.
We are currently running several projects in the area of older workers, implementing recommendations from the Commission’s Willing to Work report:
- A training module for managers on the rights of older workers, which we are delivering in 10 half-day sessions in 2019, with 25 further sessions to be delivered in 2020.
- A collaboration with the Australian HR Institute, which has resulted in an attitudinal survey which continues to be cited in the media a year after its release
- A toolkit for mature workers developed in conjunction with the NSW Department of Communities and Justice and which is being expanded currently to include tip sheets and other resources
- Dr Patterson is Chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Mature Age Employment, which brings together key industry and government stakeholders. The Collaborative is developing a number of innovative projects as well as supporting the implementation of the government’s More Choices for a Longer Life package: Jobs and skills for mature age Australians.