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Is Australia ready for the increased pension age?

15 May 2014

As the population continues to age, the budget released earlier this week sees Australian officials proposing to raise the official retirement age to 70, but are businesses ready to hire older workers?

There are concerns workplaces around the country are not ready to make the most of increasing the pension age, in a statement for the Australian Human Rights Commission, Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan urged the government to consider the needs of older workers before making this change.

"We have a recommended date in the future by which the age pension qualification age should be lifted to 70," Ms Ryan explained.

"This proposal provides a window of time during which we should take action to change employer attitudes, social infrastructure and training programs so that older people are seen as desirable employees and everyone can look forward to the opportunity to continue working as long as they need to."

Fortunately, it seems employers across Australia have taken notice of the importance of older workers, according to a recent report from the Financial Services Council (FSC).

Released on April 28, the FSC survey collected the opinions and experiences of approximately 500 Australians aged between 50 and 75, as well as conducting in-depth interviews with a number of human resource managers across a range of businesses and industries in Australia.

Workplace

The report - How Older Workers are Valued - reveals that older workers in Australia are experiencing fewer instances of age discrimination due to employers' attitudes changing over past years. While more than a quarter (28 per cent) of Australian workers between 50-75 reported discrimination in the workplace in 2014, that number has since fallen to just 18 per cent.

Additionally, employers have begun to offer their older employees more workplace training opportunities, with more than two-thirds (67 per cent) given the chance to upskill or retrain, compared with just 39 per cent in 2012.

With the government’s plan to offer subsidies of up to $10,000 over two years to employers who hire mature workers (those over 50) the incentive to make older workers welcome in the workplace is even more apparent.

However, it is still important to protect older employees from discrimination in the workplace. With almost one in five individuals still reporting bullying and harassment due to their age, each employer needs to consider methods to ensure their business meets its equal employment opportunity obligations.

This could include offering workplace bullying and harassment training to all employees and management staff, as well as executive coaching to ensure leaders are equipped to deal with conflict, and to foster a fair and supportive workplace culture.

iHR Australia offers workplace training and coaching services to organisations in all industries to help employers and employees create a safe working environment for all staff.

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