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‘Product invisibility’: Aged workers facing barriers

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HC Online | 24 Jun 2013, 12:00 AM Agree 0
Older Australians who seek to remain in the workforce are facing discrimination, according to a new report.
  • Sarah | 24 Jun 2013, 02:34 PM Agree 0
    I had to laugh when I read this; did the AHRC only just discover this? I've known this for the last 20 years, and nothing has changed.

    The stereotypes they label older workers with are so ridiculous, and employers who think in this way are very close-minded.

    I am 50 years old, and I freelance in HR because it's next to impossible to get an interview with a recruiter, let alone an employer. The interesting thing is not only do I have a huge amount of experience in my field, in addition to being up to date with legislative requirements and compliance issues, but I am very good with technology, I can even build my own websites and set up systems which would be of value to an employer, I know social media and about SEO, etc, and yet my chances of getting a foot in the door for a HR role are slim.

    What is really laughable is one of the comments about older workers not wanting to work longer hours and/or getting ill more often. How little those employers know! What about Gen Y'ers who show very little commitment to an employer, who have short staying power, and who go on parental leave and then want to come back to work 3 days a week, working for home, I might add!

    The Australian labour market is due for a huge shakedown, but until those employers and recruiters experience getting older themselves we'll all probably be dead. Meanwhile, we'll go on reading about how the AHRC found all this out from a survey and hope we don't lose our present jobs until we are ready to retire.

    I'm still wondering how the government expects older workers to survive between, say 50 and 65 or 67 (when they are able to access a government pension as their super won't be enough to sustain them).
  • Susan Rochester | 24 Jun 2013, 03:48 PM Agree 0
    How do you think using terms such as 'aged' and 'older', or even 'aging' (we are all aging) in articles like this contributes to reducing discrimination?
  • Clara Pound | 24 Jun 2013, 03:50 PM Agree 0
    Sarah, hi, I agree with many of your comments. This type of discrimination is nothing new! When people first told me they thought they were being discriminated against because of their age (then 45)... I scoffed thinking it wasn't true. Now I can see and have experienced that it does happen.
    Funny that there seems to be a perception of 'more flexibility' in today's workforce. Young parents X or Y generation, want to be there for their families; be it dinner time or when they are sick. (and rightly so too).
    We baby boomers did it tough and gave priority to work commitments and I think we paid a price for it. Today's younger generation can see the 'error' in our ways and want to do it differently. They happily give priority to their partners, families and relationships.
    I strongly encourage any employer to consider the more mature worker for a myriad of positive reasons. Unless of course you are looking for someone to leap tall buildings in a single bound!
    BTW - I think the government thinks we can all survive on this air - just look at the pension and unemployment benefits. :-) Though I do see some people who can manage on that amount by doing some fancy footing.....(that all comes from tough experience of course)
  • Geoff Pearman | 24 Jun 2013, 05:03 PM Agree 0
    This is an extremely complex issue. I agree discrimination is real. It is often the manifestation of deeply engrained stereotypes and ignorance. In working with organisations both in Australia and New Zealand to adapt to the ageing of their workforces I am finding that there are ways to engage an employer in a constructive discussion around these issues. However "beating up" on employers is not the way forward. As one who twice lost jobs in my late 50's I could easily adopt a position of advocacy and recite a list of "shoulds", I have found that this approach does not get traction with employers and why should it. Discover what matters to them and start their.
  • Malcolm King | 25 Jun 2013, 10:03 AM Agree 0
    Another self evident report that tells us that aged prejudice is prevalent amongst Australian employers. It's not that complicated. It's simply against the law and is up there with discrimination against people because of race or religion.

    The Government has done almost nothing to publicise the negative cases of age discrimination nor has it highlighted the positives. Lets see if a Coalition Government will tackle the looming fiscal gap and the continuing decline in work hours.
  • Malcolm King | 25 Jun 2013, 10:11 AM Agree 0
    My ten cents on the latest in the mature age job seeker and worker space.
  • Richard Casey | 25 Jun 2013, 02:59 PM Agree 0
    As an older person (early 60's) I have been facing age discrimination since being made redundant from a Top 10 company over 4 years ago. Despite having a work history that includes senior roles in four Top 50 companies, and a CV that recruiters and head hunters have unanimously described as 'excellent', I've been unable to find a permanent job, despite literally 100's of applications and a dozen interviews. I'm absolutely sick of being told, by email and/or telephone, that I've been unsuccessful in getting the job because "the vacancy attracted a high calibre field of applicants". With over 30 years of experience in my profession, most of it with top Australian and international companies, I'd really wonder what they'd describe as a "high calibre" applicant. Clearly, they think I'm not!

    Interestingly, following a LinkedIn discussion I participated in, involving a number of recruitment consultants, I recently re-wrote my CV to remove all indicators of my age. Surprise, surprise, I suddenly found that I was getting more interest from both external and internal recruiters - that is until they met with me and discovered my age! Then came the "high calibre" applicant response. Sadly, recruiters I've spoken to recently tell me that the cut off age for becoming an 'older worker' is now 45, and is heading for 40 in a few years' time.

    Where will this crazy employer fixation on age stop?
  • Marilyn King | 25 Jun 2013, 03:19 PM Agree 0
    I'm the President of W.O.W! - Willing Older Workers, a not-for-profit association helping unemployed people 50 and over. We believe in “Keeping the skills chain intact”
    We regularly hear stories of blatant age discrimination. "But you're old" (in an interview) and "We're looking to project a younger image to the public" (just before all the mature-aged staff were dismissed) are just two of many examples.
    While people do have the right to report such discrimination, most don't do so, because they feel they can't prove their case or they don't want to risk being labelled a "trouble maker", for fear of never getting a job. Many of our members are long-term unemployed but they keep applying for work, in the hope that an employer will see their skills, not their age.
    One of W.O.W!’s policies is to encourage companies and government departments to implement a Mentoring Programme, with a young and mature-aged employee job-sharing , thus ensuring a two way exchange of vital skills. Where Mentoring’s been trialled, it’s been very successful so we hope that other employers will consider it.
  • Not so old | 25 Jun 2013, 03:28 PM Agree 0
    I am 49 and have to admit that I don't like working long hours, or being told what to do by younger people, or learning new technology and concepts. As far as comparing age to sexual preference or religion, these things are poles apart. Neither of those have anything to do with ability, they are just choices. Age is not a choice, same with disability.

    When I was in a position to hire someone a few years ago I opted for the younger person (22) because I knew she would be easier to manage and I would not be intimidated by asking someone older than me (or my age) to do work - it just wouldn't have felt right. Turned out to be a mistake as she had Gen Y syndrome and didn't like me asking her to work and thought it was a social club...silly me! So I can see the issue from both sides. I know what I'm like and I know what industry is like. So what am I doing about it? Up-skilling so that I can run my own business and work for myself. I see it as the only way to beat the system. Fingers crossed that it works!
  • Pat from Brisbane | 25 Jun 2013, 04:54 PM Agree 0
    I am surprised that this issue hasn't sparked a series of class action lawsuits from various ambulance chasers by now. Under the current employment legislation this would have be fairly fertile ground:

    a. the applicablity of both anti discrimination legislation and the general protections provisions of the Fair Work Act to applicants for employment, who may not actually be employed by the company;

    b. the reverse onus of proof on employers to show that their employment methods were not discriminatory, and this could possibly be demonstrated by their hiring and firing practices and the outcome of their recruitment processes;

    c. the personal liability of affected managers, and

    d. the growth of no-win, no-fee claims.

    Sure, some claimants might find it more difficult to secure employment in the future.... but isn't that what they are experiencing now?

    As a 53 year old I dread the prospect of having to look for another job before I retire: the average length of time for a person over the age of 55 to be unemployed is something like 77 weeks, and unless the more egregious cases are prosecuted and hiring managers brought to account then nothing will change. There is sense of karma in hoping that those hiring managers who are guilty of age discrimination will one day find themselves over the age of 45, but to be honest, I would hope that society has changed before then. As a famous dead guy once said, on aging, "love us or hate us, you are destined to join us."
  • Sarah | 26 Jun 2013, 09:22 AM Agree 0
    Wow, what great comments from all you "oldies" :) Remember, life starts at 50--or so I'm told. I'm still wondering what happened to my 40s, let alone trying to come to terms with my 50s.

    One thing I want to say is that being in HR, I've seen age discrimination up close and personal, day in, day out.

    Of course, I cannot mention any company names, but I can assure you that I've had several battles with different ex-bosses over who to employ. I went for the older, more experienced person while they (all men bosses, btw) overruled me for the younger person.

    I've had my vindication, though, in that the choice they made ended up being either a psycho or a lazy Gen Y'er who couldn't get off Facebook during their work time and played constantly with their Smartphone.

    Oldies like us don't waste the employer's time; we are loyal; we leave Facebook for leisure hours (if we're that way inclined. I personally hate Facebook); we don't get pregnant anymore (us women, that is); if we cannot finish an important task, we either stay back or work from home; we don't rush out to meet our boyfriend/girlfriend/look after a young family/taking parental leave to look after a child, etc, etc, ad infinitum. In fact, they should extend parental leave for my pet, I say!

    But seriously, the more mature worker gives more value to an employer--especially in roles such as human resources where usually wisdom and experience in life tend to become invaluable when handling employee conflict.

    Yes, I inherited some terrible cases of stuffed up disciplinary action, which led to unfair dismissals and cost the company thousands, simply because a younger HR person handled it the wrong way. This has happened more than once, and I've had to pick up the pieces for them.

    My message: wake up, employers, and wake up government. The only time you'd want younger employees is if you want tall, blonde and long legs. Oh, and yes, I had a boss once who instructed me to get him just that. He told me he would hold me personally responsible if I employed anything other than young, good-looking women for the Reception desk of a large international hotel (these were his very words). What did I do? I employed mostly gay men, and gave my boss a lesson on discriminatory behaviour. I didn't score any brownie points with this arrogant @#$#%$#, but I levelled the field as much as I could.
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