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Treat older workers with respect, it makes sound business sense - The Australian

By Alan J. McDonald


With the intended age of retirement increasing, it is important that employers support older workers. McDonald Murholme Principal Andrew Jewell discusses the rights of employees in an ageing work force with The Australian.

See below article for further details.

Treat older workers with respect, it makes sound business sense

More Australians than ever intend to work beyond 70, as fresh concerns arise that a comfortable retirement is out of reach for many low-income earners.

An Australian Bureau of Statistics survey released in March, Retirement and Retirement Intentions, demonstrated financial security was the dominating factor for workers when deciding it was time to retire.

According to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia’s retirement standard, to have a comfortable retirement, single people will need $545,000 in retirement savings and couples will need $640,000.

Many will need to work well past the average retirement age of the past five years — 61.5 years old — to achieve stability.

The business community’s management of staff wishing to be employed past the age of 70 is a great challenge — and one that cannot be treated lightly.

The farming community is proof men and women often work until they’re 80, with the average age of farmers being about 52 — 12 years older than the average in other industries. Many aged farm workers and other self-employed individuals are free of possible discrimination from an employer.

The ABS survey also found those working in agricultural, ­forestry and fishing industries had the oldest age of intent to retire, at 67.2 years.

Regardless of what industry the workers are in, the age for retirement is rising.

Employers need to accommodate older workers in their future planning while older workers should be aware of their rights in the event they are discriminated against because of their age.

A recent Australian Human Rights Commission survey, Willing to Work, demonstrated the frequency of age discrimination in Australian workplaces, with the commission receiving 1102 age discrimination inquiries in 2014-15. The Age Discrimination Act protects employees in all types of situations, such as part-time, casual or full-time work, if they feel they have suffered a job refusal, were dismissed, denied a promotion, transfer or other employment-related benefits, given less favourable terms or conditions of employment, denied equal access to training, selected for redundancy or harassed because of age discrimination.

If an employee feels they have been discriminated against based on their age, they may be eligible to make a claim under the Age Discrimination Act to the AHRC, under the Fair Work Act or under state-based anti-discrimination legislation.

A study, soon to be published by Leanne Cutcher from the University of Sydney business school, has found the most innovative companies are those where the age of employees does not matter — contrary to the popular stereotypes and assumptions.

This notion was lost on the US arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers, a company that has been making headlines for discriminatory treatment of older employees in recent times.

PwC is being sued by Steve Rabin and other unsuccessful PwC accountant applicants aged 40 and older from 2013 to the present, alleging their age was the reason for their failure to obtain a role with the firm.

Rabin alleges: “PwC’s ­culture and practice has distributed the benefits of its enormous success unequally, systematically favouring younger applicants at the expense of their older counterparts.”

As the age of retirement rises, so does the age of employees in the workplace.

It is vital for all employees, regardless of their age, to be treated with the same respect to ensure a cohesive and innovative workplace.

If you feel that you are being discriminated against based on your age, we recommend seeking legal advice.

Andrew Jewell is a principal lawyer at employment law firm McDonald Murholme.

Reference: Treat older workers with respect, it makes sound business sense, The Australian, 18th June 2016