You’re never too old
None of us are getting any younger and, with the government pushing to keep us working beyond the traditional retirement age, sooner or later the matter of age discrimination could be of concern to us.
The Fair Work Ombudsman says age discrimination is their fastest source of complaints. There was a 46 per cent increase in complaints about discrimination of all types last year. Complaints about age discrimination made up 13 per cent of those complaints, an increase of 6 per cent. Age discrimination is now the second largest group of complaints after people with physical or mental disabilities.
The Australian Human Rights Commission reported a 65 per cent rise in inquiries about age discrimination last year and a 44 per cent increase in formal complaints.
A survey by the Financial Services Council of male workers aged 50 and over on average salaries found a third had experienced age discrimination.
The newly appointed Age Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan, says discrimination could be someone suggesting early retirement or excluding an older worker from training in new technology because they think they won’t be around much longer.
But research found only a small number were prepared to lodge complaints because many feared at their age they wouldn’t be able to find another job.
There are several places you can go if you believe you are being discriminated against on any of these grounds: age, race, colour, sex, sexual preference, physical or mental disability, marital status, family responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion and national or social origin.
Of course claiming discrimination and proving it are two very different things. There aren’t many employers stupid enough to say: “I want you to leave because you’re too old for the job.” And of course some jobs can’t be done as well by older folk, such as hard physical work. An employer has the right to appoint people they think are best suited for a position but they can’t discriminate against anybody.
This is why it’s a good idea to get advice from a lawyer. They might say you don’t have a case under the law and save you a lot of time and money. But they may see you have a case and know how best to pursue it.
There are several bodies combatting age and other forms of discrimination: The NSW Anti-Discrimination Board, the Fair Work Ombudsman, Fair Work Australia and the Human Rights Commission.
A quirk of the law is that federal judges are the only group who have a compulsory retirement age of 70. For the rest of us there’s no age limit. If we want, we have the right to work till we drop.