Young, Old or In Between - You Need to Read (Appointment of Age Discrimination Commissioner)

Posted on 10 August 2011

In May 2011 the Age Discrimination Act 2004 was amended to create an office for an Age Discrimination Commissioner within the Australian Human Rights Commission.

This changes puts Age discrimination on the same level as other discrimination such as disability or sex discrimination as Age Discrimination now too has a Commissioner who is responsible for raising awareness of age discrimination, educating the community about the impact of age discrimination and monitoring and advocating for the elimination of age discrimination across all areas of public life.

Susan Ryan, the former Labor Senator, has been appointed as the first Age Discrimination Commissioner. Susan has spent more than four decades fighting for human rights and campaigning against gender discrimination. The Age Discrimination Act was introduced in 2004 and falls within the authority of the Australian Human Rights Commission. At the last election, the Labor Government put forward the plan for a dedicated Age Discrimination Commissioner with $4 million in funding over the next four years.

Ms Ryan maintains that “For older people to live with dignity they must have economic security, whether that is adequate superannuation or the right to continue working.”

So how does the Age Discrimination Act 2004 help the workforce as it ages and what are your rights?

The Age Discrimination Act 2004 ensures that people are not treated less favorably based on their age in employment, the provision of goods and services, in education and in the administration of Commonwealth laws and programs.

The Age Discrimination Act also prohibits indirect age discrimination. Indirect discrimination occurs when there is a rule or requirement that disadvantages people who are in one group rather than another - unless the person or organisation can show that the rule or requirement is “reasonable in all the circumstances”.

What your rights are when applying for a job:-

  • You have the right to apply for most jobs and to be fairly considered for them, no matter how old you are, or how old any of your relatives, friends or associates are, including your children.
  • All jobs, apprenticeships and traineeships must be open to people of all ages, and job advertisements must not specify a particular age group. This also applies to apprenticeships and traineeships, and to bodies which issue licences to perform particular jobs, for example taxi licences or registration to practice as a nurse.
  • Generally speaking you must not be prevented from applying for a job or refused a job just because of your age (or the age of any of your relatives or associates). An employer or employment agency must not require a fixed number of years of experience, or qualifications that take a certain time to get, unless these are absolutely necessary for the job in question. This is because younger people may not be able to meet these requirements as easily as older people. For example, an employer or employment agency must not refuse to interview you because they consider you to be too old or too young for a particular position, or because you have young children.
  • It is generally against the law in NSW to force people to retire if they don’t want to. This means that most employees can continue working beyond any compulsory retirement age that applied in the past.

If you believe you have been treated unfairly or harassed at work because of your age then you should contact us. We will discuss your matter with you and assist you with the process of making a complaint. 

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