The ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR) has released a fact sheet on legal protections for mature workers in Australia, outlining the national and state laws protecting them from discrimination and upholding their right to seek flexible work arrangements. It also addresses the way workplace health and safety laws can be uniquely relevant to older Australians.
“Older Australians are a vital part of the workforce and economy,” says Professor Marian Baird, CEPAR Chief Investigator and Professor of Gender and Employment Relations at the University of Sydney Business School. “Almost 20 per cent of Australian workers are over the age of 55, and as the population ages, this proportion will continue to rise.
“Such population ageing drives an increase in older workers, but has also been magnified by rising mature labour force participation rates. While participation rates indicate that older people are increasingly more engaged in the labour market, many challenges remain.
“Older Australians, particularly women, are disproportionally primary carers of the elderly and those with a disability. Mature workers often juggle work and caring responsibilities, which are less well recognised than the child-caring role faced by many younger workers.
“Many also experience age discrimination in the workplace or when looking for work. The Australian Human Rights Commission reports that 35% of Australians aged between 55 and 64 have experienced ageism.
“Ageism and rigid work arrangements that don’t enable flexibility are two major barriers to older people remaining in, or re-entering, the workforce. Policymakers have recognised that mature workers need special protections, particularly with respect to discrimination, flexible work, and health and safety, but more needs to be done in practice.”