Do you ever feel like you’re being pushed aside, looked over or ignored? There’s a phrase for that, and it’s “age discrimination”, and it’s currently the subject of an inquiry involving mature workers.
Charles Hamilton’s case, which was presented to the inquiry, is just one example of how insidious and commonplace age discrimination is. Mr Hamilton applied for the same job at a state government agency as his daughter. His daughter was successful, however Mr Hamilton was rejected because he was “too slow” for the job, the Australian Financial Review reports.
The agency might have gotten away with it, except that someone there reportedly told Mr Hamilton’s daughter it “would be ideal for her to contact some of her friends because older people were too slow”.
Good on Mr Hamilton for bringing a complaint against the employer – but how many older, willing workers out there have not?
According to the AFR, this is one of the common themes running through the national inquiry into employment discrimination against older Australians and Australians with a disability. Others complain about being replaced by foreign or younger workers, or being told they can’t adapt to new workplace practices or technology. Some have been told by employers they are “too expensive” because they need more sick leave due to age-related health problems.
And then there’s that old chestnut: “you’re over-qualified”. While in many cases this is a euphemism for “you’re worth more than I’m willing to pay”, it’s an absurd statement that many older workers hear.
Some of the industries that are coming off worst are IT, finance and government, where the terms “young and vibrant” are even used to screen out all those old and dull people they fear might apply.
Even lowering salary expectations doesn’t help, and if you are lucky enough to score a job, some rules and policies are designed to exclude older workers.
Alonzo Llewellyn, who is over 75, was prevented from making salary sacrifices to a superannuation fund. “No matter how you cut it, that’s plain, outright age discrimination,” he told the AFR.