Over 50’s Employees, Not Over the Hill

Posted on 13 February 2012

Medical research is encouraging the aging workforce to remain employed to keep their brains sharp. Psychiatrist Ian Hickie of the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Research Institute says "Work is your own personal cognitive training program because it keeps you challenged and engaged" and says mental and physical health is better in those employed as opposed to the unemployed. He adds, “the brains of many modern 65 to 70 year olds are in pretty good shape compared to those of previous generations and as such are often too young to be retired.”

Added to this medical research is the fact that both men and women born after 1957 are not eligible for the Age Pension until the age of 67. As such, staying employed for many is not necessarily a choice but a necessity yet many older workers find themselves rejected by the modern workplace. Participants in a recent national survey reported encountering “discriminatory practices in recruitment and promotion, as well as harassment, bullying and pressure to retire” is still being experience by people in our workforces. By way of example, retrenchment and restructure programs frequently target older workers.

Age discrimination is becoming more of an issue for both employers and employees. Figures released last week from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed 18 per cent of unemployed people, aged 45 years and over, said the main reason they had difficulty finding work was because employers considered them too old.

These statistics reveal that age discrimination is very prevalent in our society. This may be difficult to believe given the degree of protection employees have against discriminatory conduct of their employer. In particular the Age Discrimination Act 2004 which helps ensure that employees are not treated less favourable based on their age. The Act protects against discrimination in many areas of public life, including getting a job, terms and conditions of a job, training, promotion, dismissal and redundancy.

In addition the Fair Work Act prohibits an employee taking Adverse Action against an employee for amongst other things the employee’s age. Adverse Action includes for example; terminating the employee, demoting the employee or discriminating between the employee and another employee when promoting. An employer who breaches the legislation can find themselves before Fair Work Australia and/or being investigated by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

However, the employer cannot be held solely responsible for an older employee and employees need to also ensure they remain employable and are viewed by the employer as an asset, regardless of age. Mark Miller of Reuters Money offers the following to assist older workers enhance their job security:-

  • Be vigilant about appearance
  • Stay tech savvy
  • Seek situations where you can have greater proximity to revenue
  • Build and maintain relationships
  • Involve yourself in critical long-term projects and programs
  • Be a reputation-enhancerPlay your strong card, which is experience
  • Look beyond the horizon to the future

Everyone at some point in their life will be facing the issue of aging in their employment. The focus needs to be on ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to work with respect and dignity into their senior years with all parties acting responsibly and supportive to achieve positive outcomes for all.

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