Flexible work options for over 45s: Time to legislate?

by Stephanie Zillman21 Jun 2012

Employer groups have slammed the proposal to change the Fair Work Act to allow older workers a legal basis to demand flexible working arrangements.

A review panel is currently investigating whether the act should change in order to extend flexible arrangements to workers aged over 45. Currently, the provision is confined to people with children of school age, under 18 or with a disability.

Yet according to the Business Council of Australia, doing so would tip the balance of choice even more firmly in favour of younger workers. “As the Fair Work Act already allows for carer responsibilities and disability to be a basis for workers of all ages to request flexible work arrangements, there would be a risk of increased regulatory compliance costs in return for small (or no) additional benefits for older workers,” BCA CEO Jennifer Westacott wrote in a submission.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACC) also weighed in on the debate, adding that it is also opposed to extending the right to request flexible working arrangements.

Rather than legislating for flexibility, some organisations have said that the same can be achieved through HR policies. Insurance Australia Group (IAG) told the commission that in strategizing the approach to retaining older workers, options such as allowing employees to take a ‘career break’ for reasons such as caring for their grandchildren, should be considered.

The BCA also argued that discrimination against workers based on their age could be tackled through better education programs for companies, advertising the benefits of hiring older workers. “While there has been a strong increase in the labour force participation of older Australians over the past 10 years, suggesting that the problem of age-based discrimination is falling, Australia still has lower levels of older worker participation than other OECD countries,” Westacott said.


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  • by Heidi Holmes 22/06/2012 10:23:39 AM

    From my experience older workers just want an opportunity to be considered fairly for a role with no age bias. The average age of our jobseeker on adage.com.au is 51 with many still wanting full time work. While flexibility might be important for some, I think a greater challenge is finding employers wanting to actively recruit from this talent pool in the first instance.

  • by Shane Higgins 22/06/2012 7:56:19 PM

    As the only national job board in Australia that has jobs specifically lodged by employers seeking older workers www.olderworkers.com.au I can assure you that flexiblility is not a key concern of our 17,500 plus jobseekers over the age of 45. Recent research indicates that in fact older workers are in fact the most flexible workers, and jobseekers the most undemanding. The issue isn't so much older workers wanting flexible working conditions it is more forward thinking employers thinking laterally about what will make them a preferred employer and among that mix is certainly flexible working hours. The legislation, if changed, won't make any difference, as does other legislation that can't be enforced, the issue of flexibiliy will be worked out between employee and employer.

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