Calls for employers to ‘diversify’ their workforces by recruiting older staff

The Benevolent Society are calling on employers across Australia to help tackle the problem of ageism in the workplace. Source: Getty.

As Australia’s ageing population continues to grow at a steady pace, people across the country are choosing to retire later than ever before. However, there are still a large number older Australians, not yet eligible for the Age Pension, who have found themselves stuck on Newstart after repeatedly failing to find employment.

One reason for this struggle is age discrimination and Australia’s oldest charity The Benevolent Society are now calling on employers across Australia to help tackle the problem of ageism in the workplace.

Employers could tackle the issue by taking a look at their recruitment habits, according to Marlene Krasovitsky, Campaign Director at The Benevolent Society, who told Starts at 60 there is evidence to prove that some employers tend to avoid hiring from within certain demographics.

“The sorts of things that we are encouraging employers to do is think about what their workforce looks like and whether or not there is an overrepresentation,” she said. “And whether they’re mainly recruiting particular ages. There is evidence out there to suggest that some companies are doing just that.

“We also want them to look at the diversity of their workforce. Ask questions about whether they’re actually maximising and optimising the benefits of having a diverse workforce.”

Marlene suggested another way that employers can make their workplaces more accommodating for older workers is to consider flexible working options, which can include elements such as reduced working hours as people prepare to transition to retirement or job sharing schemes.

She added: “We’re asking employers to look at their flexible work arrangements and whether they are available across the board, or just for perhaps younger people. And to look at the benefits that could be brought to the business by expanding those flexible arrangements or making workplace adjustments for older workers.”

Last year, shocking figures collated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that older Aussies are actually spending longer on the dole than unemployed people in their 20s, debunking the myth that Newstart is a young person’s payment.

The findings, which were analysed by The Benevolent Society, revealed that there were 174,532 Aussies aged 55 to 64 signed on to Newstart, compared to 156,664 between the ages of 25 and 34.

While there were more older Aussies simply in receipt of the unemployment benefit, the data also showed that unemployed Australians, aged 60-64, remain on the unemployment benefit for an average of 187 weeks before signing off, compared to 104 weeks for those aged 25-29.

And, whereas ‘signing off’ for younger generations means the recipient has landed a job, in many cases with older Aussies the ceasing of payments can often be explained by a transition to the Age Pension, after reaching the age of 65.

Marlene added: “We need to start to have conversations about ageism and at work is where it’s alive and kicking for people. What we’re trying to do is really identify ageism, name it, call it out, give people an awareness of what it looks like.

“The reason we are focusing on work to start off with is because of all the domains of our lives, people most regularly identify ageism at work as where they can see it operating.”

To find out more about Every Age Counts click here.

This story is part of a series Starts at 60 is doing on ageism in the workplace. If you’ve experienced something similar and would like to share your story, please email [email protected]

Have you struggled with ageism when it comes to finding work? Do you think employers could benefit from hiring more older workers?

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