Posts Tagged “experience matters”

David Penberthy

October 1, 2016

A MATE of mine who rightly describes himself as a grumpy old man told me a  great grumpy old man joke the other day. It involved a man in his late 50s, recently retrenched, who had typed up a CV for the first time in decades and was being interviewed by a 20-something HR woman at a job placement firm about his qualities as an employee.
“Do you think that you have any weaknesses?” she asked, routinely.
“Probably honesty,” he said.
“I don’t think honesty is a weakness,” she said.
“I don’t give a f–k what you think,” he replied.
Many a true word is said in jest. I like this joke because it goes to the heart of the perception that older workers — or in this bloke’s case, non-workers — are irascible and stuck in their ways. Also, older workers are seen as providing limited return on investment, to use that cliched management term.
Why bother hiring a crotchety know-it-all who might give you a decade of productivity, when you could stump for a bright young thing to shape in your image, and hopefully hold on to for years?
Our economy is at a crossroads, shifting from its reliance on manu-facturing and mining to the new service and data-driven industries.
There has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian, our Prime Minister says.
For many people, most of them men aged in their 50s and early 60s, there has never been a more unnerving time to be an Australian — because so many people being squeezed out of jobs are older men.

‘So much of the discussion around unemployment has focused on the young.’

Men who, if sacked, will never work again. The figures are borne out by the depressing statistic that anyone who is retrenched over the age of 55 will spend at least twice as long on the dole as a person under that age. And a 2014 study by the National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre revealed that 96 per cent of people aged 55 to 59 who were retrenched wound up retiring, even though many were desperate to work again.
So much of the discussion around unemployment has focused on the young. There have been calls to raise the Newstart allowance from $264 a week to $317, a $53-a-week increase that would cost the Budget $7.7 billion.
It’s been pushed by the Australian Council of Social Service and the Australian Industry Group fearing the current rate is so low that people cannot present themselves properly or travel to look for jobs. I have no way of knowing whether the public agrees with the ACOSS and AIG position. My hunch is that many would be suspicious of the proposed rise, fearing that young people who could be rightly described as bludgers would treat it as their personal payday.
The public view would be different, however, if you asked people to compare the indolent 20-somethings who had never looked for work in his life, and the middle-aged man who had done nothing but work, and who found out last Monday his company was shifting operations to Beijing or Bangalore.
The Federal Government’s logic in denying calls for a Newstart increase is that it risks turning the welfare safety net into a hammock. I agree with that view for younger workers with no dependants, and no interest in working. I am not sure if it is fair for older people who have mortgages, debts, children — and a burning desire to work again.

The Federal Government’s logic in denying calls for a Newstart increase is that it risks turning the welfare safety net into a hammock.
I am not suggesting that every unemployed young person doesn’t want to work. There are some suburbs in Australia where the old blue-collar jobs have gone forever.
But there are plenty of younger people who would not work in an iron lung. Surely the best way to get them off their behinds is with less carrot, and more stick.
One of the more illuminating moments of my journalistic career came about 10 years ago when I was asked to go from editing newspapers to running a news website. You could not have found a team more adept to the digital age, be it writing HTML code, or generating new audiences via social media channels.
Their only weakness, as purported journalists, was that many of them didn’t know what The Dismissal was, how Harold Holt disappeared, or who the hell Harold Holt even was. We had replaced people who were walking encyclopedias with the Wikipedia generation. As a community, we do that every time we sort through the CVs on the basis of age, not to forget perceived grumpiness.

Source: Sun Herald

By Craig Allen

Proposals to further lift the pension age have “terrified” some mature-aged jobseekers, who said they were already struggling to compete for work with candidates decades their junior.

The Federal Government has flagged plans to reintroduce legislation to raise the pension age from the current 65 years and six months, to age 70, by 2035.

But with the pressure on workers to stay in paid employment longer, some have called for bosses to reform their attitudes and find longer-term career paths for their employees.

The National Willing to Work report, recently released by the Australian Human Rights Commission, exposed widespread discrimination against older workers, and the myths that they were “forgetful, inflexible”, and had trouble learning new skills.

Last month former Human Rights Commissioner Susan Ryan told the National Press Club that attitudes must change because there were huge economic benefits in employing mature aged workers.

“The business case for employing older workers is undeniable, yet only relatively few businesses are doing it,” Ms Ryan said.

The report found one in 10 business have a maximum age above which they will not recruit — and the average age was 50.

But it was not just private enterprise at fault, with the Council on the Ageing (COTA) claiming the Federal Government’s recruitment practices, which required candidates to disclose their age, only reinforced the problem.

The report also found:
Individuals who were subject to negative assumptions, stereotypes and discrimination could experience stress, and a decline in physical and mental health;
That some government policies and the operation of some government programs were “not achieving their intended objectives and may be serving as a disincentive to workforce participation”;
A 7 per cent increase in mature-age labour force participation would raise gross domestic product in 2022 by approximately $25 billion;
Employment discrimination against people with disability was “ongoing and systemic”.
COTA ACT executive director Jenny Mobbs said older candidates were too often missing out on jobs.

“The selection panels in the public service can be quite a young group of people, and they don’t want their mum or their dad walking in and taking over in the workforce,” Ms Mobbs said.

“It’s a really complex issue, certainly one where the discrimination’s certainly there.

“If a 35-year-old applies for a job, and a 60-year-old applies for the job, the 35-year-old, particularly in Canberra, will get the job.

“Younger people don’t like to work with older people who’ve got much more experience because they feel threatened.”

Seminars helping older Australians re-enter the workforce

COTA ACT has been holding seminars for older workers trying to re-enter the workforce, including training on how to get interviews and how to compete with much younger candidates.

Participant Tanya Astle said it was common for mature-aged jobseekers to be overwhelmed by the challenges of finding work.

“There’s a lot of frustration in the group with not being able to get work … but what we’ve found in the group that it’s really good to get together to support each other and to vent,” Ms Astle said.

“A lot of us have been out of work because of parenting … and the workforce has zoomed right past us.”
Ms Astle has recently retrained, but admitted being daunted at the prospect of having to start a new career at her age.

“Honestly, it is terrifying. Yes, for me it’s quite nerve-wracking,” she said.

Former senior executive Gloria Loewe, 56, said she had lost track of the numbers of knock-backs she has had in trying to find work.

“I stopped counting … it’s depressing if you start counting,” Ms Loewe said.

And she echoed a similar sentiment of other mature aged workers: that working is about self satisfaction rather than ruthless ambition.

“It’s not so much to make money, or have a position — I already did that,” Ms Loewe said.

“It’s just to keep active, and mainly to be useful to somebody or to yourself, or to society. I feel that I still have a lot to offer.”
Key recommendations from the Human Rights Commission’s Willing to Work report included creating a Minister for Longevity, government targets for older worker recruitment, and better education to dispel myths and stereotypes about older employees.

Date
May 14, 2016

Viktoria Rother made a terrible miscalculation. When she took voluntary redundancy aged 45, the former customs officer felt certain that as an educated, single, child-free professional she would soon find full-time work.

But her lack of luck in the job market left her in despair. Finally a recruiter laid out the brutal truth. “She informed me frankly that most employers weren’t interested in people my age or older; they preferred to employ those under 40.”

“I lost hope of ever finding paid work again,” Ms Rother said.

Age and disability discrimination commissioner Susan Ryan.
Age and disability discrimination commissioner Susan Ryan. Photo: Rohan Thompson
After hearing countless stories like this, Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan is “enraged at the unfairness” that perfectly capable people in their 50s or younger are constantly being told they are “a bit long in the tooth for this job”.

​”It is unthinkable that people who lose their jobs in their 50s may live up to another 40 years without paid employment,” said Ms Ryan.

Ongoing, systemic age and disability workforce discrimination is not only a massive drain on the economy but has devastating consequences for individuals, a national inquiry led by Ms Ryan has concluded.

Raden Dunbar got a taste of the age discrimination he’d dished out to others when he was hiring in the past.
Raden Dunbar got a taste of the age discrimination he’d dished out to others when he was hiring in the past.
Roughly a quarter of the population are 55 and over but they make up only 16 per cent of the total workforce. Although 83.2 per cent of people without a disability participate in the workforce, only 53.4 per cent of people with a disability do.

Employment rates of people over 55 drop off sharply, to only 12.7 per cent for people over 65. But in the past decade, the number of people over 45 who say they won’t retire before 70 has risen dramatically, from 8 per cent to 23 per cent, the ABS reports. “They expect to, they want to, but will they find jobs?” Ms Ryan said.

Governments want people to work for longer to ease the looming pressure on the budget as the proportion of the population over 65 swells. It is feared the age pension and health systems, which older people will rely on for longer than ever as longevity increases, will become too expensive for the shrinking workforce to fund through taxes.

The inquiry found Australian labour force participation rates for older people and people with disability remain “far too low” and lag behind comparable OECD countries. Even with a 7 per cent increase in the mature age labour force participation rate we would lag behind New Zealand, but the boost to GDP in 2022 would be about 1.4 per cent, or $25 billion, says the Grattan Institute.

Every public service job in Australia should have flexible working conditions and targets for employing older workers and people with disabilities, the inquiry recommends. Private employers should have to publicly report progress on hiring older workers and those with disabilities, with the role of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency to be expanded to monitor diversity. A national action plan should be developed and federal cabinet should include a minister for longevity, it recommends.

Attorney-General George Brandis said the report was a “very, very important body of work” and a “milestone in public policy making”. The recommendations would be considered, Senator Brandis said at the launch earlier this month.

The inquiry heard the same excuses for age and disability discrimination as were once commonly used to justify gender discrimination, “with no basis of evidence for the stereotype”, Ms Ryan said. These include that older people or people with disabilities are “unreliable, too distracted by family responsibilities, can’t handle high-stress jobs or won’t be able to work at a high enough pace”.

“I believe that we need the same sort of cultural change in relation to older people and people with disability as we had to push for and finally achieve in relation to women,” said Ms Ryan, who pioneered the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 as minister assisting the prime minister on the status of women in the Hawke Labor government.

“It is not a niche problem. It is a major demographic fact and we need to deal with it as much as we did with women, but we don’t want it to take as long.”

After he turned 64, educator and consultant Raden Dunbar got a taste of the age discrimination he’d dished out to others when he was hiring in the past, he told the inquiry. As a recruiter, “I instinctively avoided hiring applicants who were older and more experienced than me – because of a concern that such people might be ‘difficult to handle’.”

“I now think that, out of self-interest, I didn’t want my own standing to be jeopardised by the presence of a much older, more experienced subordinate.” Over-qualified, too senior, or over-experienced for the position were the usual excuses made to unsuccessful older applicants. “I could also pretend that they would ‘waste the training investment’ in view of their purportedly shorter future working lives,” Mr Dunbar said.

Programs and subsidies to encourage employers to hire older or disabled workers are ineffective, the inquiry found. The lack of opportunities to gain new skills for mid-life workers from declining industries like manufacturing condemns many capable and experienced workers to “years of poverty on benefits”.

Ms Ryan said older workers are also vulnerable to rip-offs under the rorting that has plagued the vocational education and training industry. “We need to make sure that … training is linked to a skill shortage in the area that they can realistically be trained to fill, not just some private provider who is enrolling them in something with a fancy name,” she said.

The report does not argue for special treatment for older workers or people with disabilities. The best person for the job should always get it, Ms Ryan said.

Viktoria Rother, now 53, is now adding to her stack of degrees with a master’s of environmental management and sustainability online through the University of Newcastle. Employers “think that those of us who are over 40, our brains are atrophied and we can’t possibly learn anything new. I find it insulting,” she says. But she feels optimistic about her chances in a growing field. It is a “completely different and new career path for me because I think the government wants me to work until I am 103”, she says.

Source: SMH

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/overqualified-overexperienced-report-reveals-systemic-age-discrimination-20160512-gotn0p.html#ixzz48lWoflMq
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Arnoud De Meyer
PUBLISHED MAY 7, 2016,

Studies at German carmakers show that with the right tools and environment, older workers get more productive. It is time to redesign jobs in Singapore, from cleaning to food and beverage and services.
A few months ago, I saw a series of advertisements on buses promoting the recruitment of older workers. The direct message was nice and clear: Older workers can bring a wealth of experience and can therefore be useful to an organisation. But I felt, perhaps wrongly, that there was a subliminal stereotype in these advertisements suggesting that older workers were not productive any more, and that such lowering in productivity had to be compensated by the sometimes- elusive concept of experience.

If that were true, we here in Singapore would be up for unpleasant surprises. While the Government rightly encourages us to enhance productivity in all sectors of the economy, we also know we have a rapidly ageing society. We have fewer babies than in the past and we live longer.

As a consequence, the number of Singapore citizens and permanent residents in the usual working age range of 20 to 64 peaked last year, and the number of citizens above 65 will rise from 440,000 last year to 900,000 by 2030. It is estimated that by 2030, there will be only 2.1 working-age residents for every person above 65, as opposed to more than double that today.

What can we do about it? One option is significant growth in immigration. I don’t think that is on the cards. Another option is that we all work longer. I am not sure I like that option personally, but from observing what is happening in other countries with a rapidly ageing population, such as Britain, Germany and Japan, I see that everywhere the real retirement age is rising. In fact, with the exception of Japan, many societies are turning to both options: increasing immigration and working longer.

MERCEDES AND BMW EXAMPLES

That is the bad news. Now for the good news.

The assumption that productivity declines with age is factually wrong. Research in many industrialised countries shows clearly that productivity does not diminish with age. We have to be careful with some of these studies because they measure productivity of younger and older people who are active in the workforce. One can thus argue that those who left the workforce are the ones who had lost out in productivity. So a more precise formulation is that there is no loss of productivity for ageing workers who stay in the workforce.

ST ILLUSTRATION : MANNY FRANCISCO

There is, of course, quite some difference in productivity between members of that older age group, but that is also true for younger workers. To put it scientifically, the variance within each age group is significantly larger than the variance between age groups.

Let me refer to one seminal piece of research (by Axel Boersch-Supan and Matthias Weiss) on an assembly line of the German car manufacturer Mercedes. Such car assembly lines have a fixed pace. So productivity is not measured by speeding up the lines, but by measuring the mistakes that are made, leading to defective cars that need to be reworked, thus reducing the output per day. Measured this way, the productivity per worker at Mercedes went up till the age of 65 – it does not mean it could not go up beyond 65. There were simply no workers older than 65.

Recently, I was in a taxi with an elderly driver who was hard of hearing. At first, I was a bit worried. But he had really organised himself well to communicate with his passengers. He had a little note on the back of the front seat apologising for his hearing problem, and a notebook for the passenger to write down the destination. I noticed he was doubly careful in checking for cars overtaking, and found that he drove very efficiently and safely.
I can already see some of us thinking this does not make sense. We all know that when we age we have growing problems with our eyesight or hearing, we are less able to lift heavy loads and our cardiorespiratory capabilities decline. And yes, I personally also seem to forget a bit more as I grow older. And we may learn less rapidly than a 20-something.

It may be true that what is called fluid intelligence, or your capability to learn abstract concepts and reasoning, may diminish with age.

But your crystallised intelligence, which is based on knowledge acquisition and experience, rises and compensates significantly for that loss of fluid intelligence.

The loss of sensory capabilities (seeing and hearing) can be easily compensated by a better working environment. A bit more light in the workplace can help. Our inability to lift heavy weights can be compensated by having a few more tools.

Once again, I would like to refer to a 10-year-old study at that other German car manufacturer, BMW.

They understood in the early 2000s that with the rapidly rising age of their workforce, they would have to redesign their factories. So they created an assembly line with a group of workers with an average age of 47. The factory’s management raised the issue, some managers ran an experiment, but it was the workers themselves who came up with the solutions.

With a mere €40,000 investment in an assembly line, they were able to raise productivity by 7 per cent in one year, equalling the assembly lines staffed by younger workers. Absenteeism was originally at 7 per cent but, after a few years, it dropped to 2 per cent.

What was the trick? A few simple equipment changes, accompanied by changes in work practices. There were new chairs (based on the design for the barber shop chair), magnifying lenses, adjustable worktables, large-handled gripping tools, larger typeface on the computer screens, and wooden floors which are better for our joints. In addition, a physiotherapist developed stretching and strength exercises to make older people more flexible at the start of the working day.

Why do I make this point? First, because I am convinced that Singapore needs to develop an environment that will enable ageing people to remain productive. We need it to remain competitive.

Second, if we do it well we may develop innovative processes and workshop designs that can be sold to other ageing countries. Germany has started with this. Japan is heavily investing in robotisation to support elderly people.

What can we do?

Robotisation might help. But in many cases I am convinced it is gimmicky, and nice to show on a late-night TV show. The reality is much simpler and cheaper. I am convinced that enhancing productivity for the elderly can be stimulated in five ways.

FIVE WAYS TO RAISE PRODUCTIVITY

First, let’s get over the stereotypes that older people are wiser but less productive. With the right tools and in the right environment, they can be both wiser and more productive. Perhaps we also should change our vocabulary. Let’s not talk about ageing. It sounds negative. Let’s talk about longevity.

Second, let’s research the tools, the environment and the education needed to keep our long-living workforce productive. The BMW case is just one example.

How do we reorganise cleaning, F&B, construction, bus driving, computerised services, libraries, entertainment, you name it, so that it becomes easier for long-living workers to be productive?

For example, at many of our institutions, cleaning is performed by elderly people. But the tools are designed for young people.

I notice at my own organisation that some of the “uncles” and “aunties” have quite cleverly reorganised their tools to make it easier for them to do their cleaning jobs. Perhaps we should listen more to them.

Recently, I was in a taxi with an elderly driver who was hard of hearing. At first, I was a bit worried. But he had really organised himself well to communicate with his passengers. He had a little note on the back of the front seat apologising for his hearing problem, and a notebook for the passenger to write down the destination. I noticed he was doubly careful in checking for cars overtaking, and found that he drove very efficiently and safely.

Third, we need to invest in more flexible working arrangements. Older people may be interested in different lifestyles and work arrangements. They may want to work only part-time because they want to take care of their grandchildren. Or they may wake up earlier and would love to work from 6am till 3pm. And some older women may want to catch up on their career to make up for the time they had lost when they were taking care of their children. They may well want to work more. I am not dictating the right way of organising work. What is needed are more flexible arrangements that fit longer-living employees.

Fourth, let’s get rid of the notion that older people cannot learn, or the idea that it is not a good investment to have them learn new skills. They are as capable as anybody else to learn new approaches. They may have a different learning style. Some research in the Nordic countries indicated that retired people were as eager and capable as adolescents to learn how to navigate the Internet and its social networks. They just learnt it in a different way. The value of education and training is not reduced by age.

And, finally, we should not underestimate that elderly people know better the needs and challenges of elderly customers. When a senior citizen goes to a bank, does he or she really want to be advised about investments by a youngish relationship manager? Frankly, I personally prefer to be served by an experienced older cabin crew than by the youthful stewards and stewardesses with scant experience in life that we see so often in the advertisements of our airlines.

My point is that we should design services and products appropriate for long-living people and delivered by long-living people. Let’s stop talking about ageing. Instead, let’s focus on living longer and working longer and well. Longevity and productivity can go hand in hand.

The writer is president of Singapore Management University.

May 7, 2016
Paul Gilder Herald Sun

Events have combined to cast retiree nest eggs into the path of a financial tornado.
‘TOTO, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

With those words Dorothy Gale, the heroine of cinema classic The Wizard of Oz, bravely takes her first steps into a foreign land full of uncertainty and risk.

Retirees and those soon to leave the workforce must be feeling a little like Dorothy this week after a run of events that have combined to cast their nest eggs into the path of a financial tornado.

The big banks set the scene as Westpac on Monday and ANZ a day later unveiled first-half earnings slumps and in ANZ’s case, a dividend cut, citing tough trading conditions and sending a shiver up the spine of yield-seeking investors.

It was the Reserve Bank’s turn on Tuesday, stealing the spotlight from Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison’s Budget by cutting the cash rate to an all-time low of 1.75 per cent in the war against deflation — leaving term deposit holders feeling even more unloved.

Perhaps the biggest whammy was in the Budget itself, with news of yet another overhaul to superannuation in the name of fairness and long-term fiscal repair.

Among changes set to be introduced from July next year, the annual cap on concessional — or pre-tax — contributions will be wound back from $30,000 to $25,000 for under-50s and $35,000 for over-50s.

For those earning $250,000 to $300,000, the tax rate on concessional contributions has been doubled to 30 per cent.

And the total a person can transfer into their pension fund — which attracts less tax than a super accumulation fund — will be capped at $1.6 million. It is estimated that those amendments will put an additional $2.9 billion into the government’s coffers over the next four years.

Combined, the revelations are turning the walk down the yellow brick road to a prosperous retirement into an arduous slog.

Remember, this is the generation who have been told that to be comfortable in their golden years, a couple aged around 65 will need to have about $59,200 a year to spend, while a single will need $43,100.

According to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, a couple at 65 will need $640,000 to aspire to those annual sums, while a single will need $545,000.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show men aged 55-64 have amassed on average $320,000 and women $180,000, while a household — which takes in the impact of single-occupant houses — has $400,000 in savings.

At those rates, many will be struggling to maintain that “comfortable” lifestyle well before their 75th birthdays, even with the benefits of the Age Pension.

Chant West head of research Ian Fryer says the gap is partly down to the relative immaturity of the compulsory super system, which has only been mandatory since 1992.

“It took a number of years for employer contributions to get to 9.5 per cent, so a lot of people nearing retirement aren’t going to get to those retirement savings levels,” Mr Fryer says.

While few are quibbling over the clamps intentionally being applied to the wealthy, economists are worried that more tinkering with super will further knock confidence in the system.

“The changes … still leave superannuation as highly tax preferred compared to alternatives,” AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver says.

“The concern though is that it will adversely affect the supply of patient long-term saving available to help grow the Australian economy.”

Respondents to the Westpac-Melbourne Institute’s consumer poll on the “wisest place for savings” has superannuation trailing the pack, favoured by less than 5 per cent.

Most favoured bank deposits, or paying down debt, while property was preferred by about one in five and shares about one in 10.

But the biggest long-term impact to wealth accumulation could yet come from interest rates.

The RBA also finds itself in a scary new world after official figures revealed Australia had joined the ranks of developed nations to suffer a bout of price deflation.

Announcing the RBA had taken the knife to the official interest rate this week, governor Glenn Stevens reasoned that “unexpectedly low” inflation — headline inflation was minus 0.5 per cent in the three months to March — was not to be dismissed lightly.

The hope is that in cutting rates, consumers will divert their mortgage savings back into the economy, and that extra demand will spur businesses to lift prices and reignite inflation.

But there is collateral damage, particularly for the reliable over-50s saver.

On hearing news of the rate cut, former Victorian premier and beyondblue founder Jeff Kennett labelled it a “disaster” for retirees.

“Low interest rates might be great news for homebuyers but for fixed income, more experienced Australians (who are) retired it is a disaster,” he tweeted.

Figures from RateCity.com.au, an online financial product broker, show the best term deposits on the market are offering about 3.3 per cent for one year, or about $6600 on a $200,000 deposit.

The big four banks are even stingier: rates of 2.3 per cent to 3.1 per cent are typical for anything up to five years.

“A lot of people are asking us where to park their savings when rates are low,” says RateCity money editor Sally Tindall.

“Online savings accounts are not offering a lot more than inflation, so the answer is often putting your money into a mortgage, which can be more productive in the long run.”

Mr Fryer says low returns have forced many people to take on more risk at a time when they have little recourse to recoup any heavy losses. For many, that means investing in Australian shares, and the big banks this week proved how stressful that path can be.

Lower rates, Mr Fryer says, can provide a sugar hit to shares but can also be a signal of difficult economic times to come.

Another obvious area of investment is property, after the government this week made good on its vow to leave negative gearing alone.

But Mr Fryer says would-be investors need to tread with caution.

“I’d be concerned if people were making investment decisions based on the current cash rate. They need to see if they can cope with higher repayments down the track.”

It seems that like Dorothy, anyone wanting to don a pair of ruby slippers in retirement might just need to do a little more legwork.

paul.gilder@news.com.au
Source: News.com

Wednesday, 04 May 2016

The Australian Human Rights Commission has suggested it should be easier for employees to pursue workplace discrimination claims in court, in a major report on age and disability discrimination.

The 528-page report is the result of a year-long AHRC inquiry into work-related age and disability discrimination, and makes more than 50 recommendations.

The Commission notes that at the time of its April 2015 survey some 27 per cent of people over the age of 50 had recently experienced workplace discrimination; and in the past 12 months, nearly one in 12 Australians with disability (8.6%) reported experiencing discrimination or unfair treatment.

Pursuing discrimination claims should be less of a burden
The AHRC directs nine recommendations to the Federal Government, including that it consider changing the definition of disability under the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 to align more closely with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ definition.

The latter definition doesn’t focus on individuals’ limitations but rather on “barriers that society constructs for people with disability”, the Commission says.

The Commission also recommends the Government consider the benefits of introducing into law a positive duty to prevent discrimination.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission told the inquiry: “A positive duty is about being proactive. It means eliminating causes of discrimination that may be part of your systems of work, not just responding to complaints that arise.”

A further recommendation is for the Government to consider removing from discrimination laws the “complicated and contentious” comparator test to establish direct discrimination, which “requires a comparison to be made between the way in which a person with a protected attribute (such as disability or age) is treated and the way in which a person without that attribute would have been treated in circumstances that are materially the same”.

Instead, it could use the ACT Discrimination Act’s detriment test, which more simply assesses whether a person has discriminated against another person by treating or proposing to treat the other person unfavourably because of a protected attribute.

The AHRC recommends other ways in which the Government could remove barriers to employees pursuing discrimination claims in court, including:

allowing representative organisations with a sufficient interest to commence federal court proceedings on behalf of workers, but only by leave of the court;
requiring parties to bear their own costs of federal court proceedings, with courts retaining the discretion to make costs orders when considering financial circumstances and other matters;
amending federal discrimination laws to apply to discrimination based on a combination of protected attributes, rather than each separate attribute; and
consulting with workers, employers and peak bodies on the value of developing employment disability standards.
The Commission also found that while employees have a right to request flexible working arrangements under s65 of the Fair Work Act, their inability to appeal an employer’s decision can prevent older workers and workers with disability from receiving such arrangements.

“Individuals and organisations were concerned that this provision ‘lacks teeth’ because employees have no recourse under the Act where they believe an employer’s refusal was not on ‘reasonable business grounds’,” it says, in recommending a review of the provision.

The AHRC also recommends a review of the fairness of the 21-day time limit for making general protections or unfair dismissal claims.

Employer action steps
“Employers, businesses and the organisations that represent them, have a critical role to play in recruiting, retaining and training older people and people with disability,” the Commission says, outlining numerous steps employers can take to prevent workplace discrimination.

Employers should provide managers and supervisors with support to create and manage diverse teams and flexible workplaces, by helping them with job design, training them in how to manage flexible work arrangements, providing them with information on mental health, and training them in the nature and impact of discrimination, it says.

Organisations should also have a “coherent and systemic organisational business strategy” that:

includes voluntary targets for recruiting and retaining older workers and workers with disability, as well as practical strategies to achieve those targets;
regularly tracks and reports on progress and accountability;
encourages employer-to-employer mentoring and partnerships with specialist organisations;
provides employees with guidance on how to support disability disclosure in a non-discriminatory and non-threatening manner;
makes it easy to adjust workplaces when necessary; and
provides internships/traineeships/apprenticeships and mentoring programs.
The AHRC also recommends employers review their recruitment and retention processes to ensure practices, language and accessibility aren’t discriminatory, and outline their diversity expectations to recruitment agencies.

They should also facilitate older workers’ transition into other industries or jobs by providing timely and relevant skills training and identifying transferable skills, and ensure flexible work practices are “mainstream” by making all jobs and work environments flexible, rather than only on request, it says.

Willing to Work, AHRC, May 2016

Source: HR Daily

A new report has found that older Australians and casual workers of all ages have a higher likelihood of being laid-off, and struggling to find new jobs.

The report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development(OECD) also found that a significant group face a decline in job quality, often moving from permanent to casual jobs. One in three people earn less than what they used to.

Most of the laid-off workers have limited access to re-employment support and only a moderate number receive “early and more intensive employment services through structural adjustment programmes”.

The report released recommendations for the federal government to help vulnerable workers find good jobs quickly by:

  • moving away from the current sectoral approach to special assistance programs in case of mass layoffs towards an approach covering all sectors of the economy, with the intensity of intervention varying according to the workers’ needs
  • introducing pilot schemes in a few areas to test the delivery by job active providers of intensive employment services adapted to the needs of laid-off workers
  • expanding the training component in programs for laid-off workers and making use of skills assessment and individual training counselling to target training more effectively
  • strengthening employers’ responsibilities for workers they are laying off by instituting a longer notice period in case of mass layoff, and ensuring that notification to Centrelink is enforced so that authorities can respond more quickly
  • considering the introduction of a mechanism to publicly support firms putting workers on short hours, for example through publicly-funded training places or temporary subsidies to prevent excessive dismissals during cyclical downturns.

The document also reported that 2.3 per cent of Australian workers with at least one year of employment are laid-off each year because of downsizing or closures.

However, it noted that due to Australia’s flexible labour market, 70 per cent of unemployed workers found a new job within a year, and 80 per cent within two years.

Source:  Pro Bono Australia

April 15, 2016

A government pilot program is revealing Australia has a strong workforce of mature workers keen to remain productive.   Skills Checkpoint Pilot offers workers aged between 45 and 54 years a professional careers “health check” to evaluate their skills and experience in order to create a personalised career map of their future prospects.

Participants are also invited to attend online and offline workshops on training opportunities, the future jobs market, and recruitment trends for those looking at transitioning into new careers.

The whole process takes about six weeks, after which participants receive their career map defining ways to address skills gaps, listing suitable occupations and employment opportunities to suit their skillsets and information on training pathways and government programs relevant to their circumstances.

Pilot participant “Theresa,” who shoulders caring responsibilities for her disabled son, says her career map clarified the directions she could realistically pursue in the context of her circumstances.

“The pilot helped me realise I have a lot of transferrable skills applicable to local industries where flexible work practices are more commonplace than where I am working right now,” Teresa says.

“I am also better informed about government programs and assistance I am eligible for if I want to pursue further training – I feel more certain about my future options.”

So far, the Skills Checkpoint initiative is attracting a lot of interest from a workforce of mature Australians keen to remain productive, who are driven to generate an income to secure a comfortable retirement.

The average Australian healthy lifestyle expectancy is one of the highest in the world, due to improvements in health care and other technologies, while the age pension age for both men and women will hit 67 by mid-2023.

Meanwhile, the number of working people aged 15 to 64 in proportion to each of those aged 65 and over has dropped from 7.3 people in 1975 to around 4.5 people today.

It’s clearly an economic imperative that we do all we can to encourage mature Australians to contribute their experience and skill to the workforce.

This pilot recognises that many older people need advice on how best to do that, and I hope we can assist many people to realise their dreams.

To participate call 1300 073 612 or visit skillsroad.com.au/skillscheckpoint

Source:  Australian Ageing Agenda

From left: Catherine Brown, CEO of Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, Dr Susan Feldman, Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University, Sue Hendy, CEO of COTA Victoria

As Australia marked International Women’s Day this week, a new report shows half a million older Australian women are living in long-term income poverty, and calls for urgent affordable seniors housing.

Losing a job, becoming ill or injured, the breakup of a marriage of death of a spouse – these are among the most common triggers that plunge older women into poverty,new Australian research shows.

Some 34 per cent of single women over 60 lived in permanent income poverty, compared to 27 per cent of single older men and 24 per cent of couples, according to the research by Adjunct Associate Professor Dr Susan Feldman and Dr Harriet Radermacher from Monash University.

The study, commissioned by Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, showed that a “complex mix of circumstances” act to discriminate against women, including the casualisation of the workforce, the superannuation system, and family violence.

By age 65, women retire with about a third of the superannuation that men accrue, and government benefits account for 60 per cent of their income.

Dr Feldman, who has been researching the area of older women and ageing for more than 20 years, yesterday lamented that more progress has not been made on the issue.

She said government agencies and organisations were working with a limited understanding of the issue due to poor data.

“It’s quite depressing, because we are still collecting, analysing and dis-aggregating data based on the categories of 65-plus, with very little attention to cohort, gender and ethnicity,” Dr Feldman told Australian Ageing Agenda.

More broadly, Dr Feldman said that gerontology units all over the world were being closed and there had been a decline in university-based ageing research units that took a broader focus – into areas like older women and poverty – as research funding tended to favour bio-medical studies.

Older women need ‘a voice’

The study found that older women need “a strong national voice” articulating strategies to achieve gender equity in areas like superannuation, pay and flexible employment.

“Apart from service delivery organisations, local government, and advocacy networks that support women, women’s organisations are sparse and sometimes do not have a high profile,”said the research, which was based on a literature review and interviews with experts and service providers.

“I grew up in a period where we had a lot of information being shared through women’s organisations, face-to-face, we kept up to date with the latest things; we’ve lost that capacity to network, for older women particularly,” said Dr Feldman.

Action on affordable housing, employment

The report urged collaborations between government, community groups, researchers and the business sector to develop and implement innovative models of affordable housing, particularly for older women.

Dr Feldman also said she wanted to see the workplace become a more welcoming place and provide the same opportunities for women who wanted to remain working, through more flexible arrangements. Such efforts would not just boost women’s income but also bring about a sense of inclusion, she said.

The full study The Time of Our Lives? is available to read here.

 Source: Australian Ageing Agenda

Next month the Turnbull Government will be asking the Senate to support one of the most devastating attacks launched against poor and vulnerable Australians in recent memory. The Bill – entitled Social Security Legislation Amendment (Further Strengthening Job Seeker Compliance) Bill 2015 – proposes to give privately run job agencies unprecedented new powers to financially penalise unemployed and underemployed Australians. If passed the fines will come into effect on 1 July 2016.

Under the proposal, Australians receiving the dole can be fined 10% of their income support – increasing by 10% each day until they ‘re-engage’ – if they:

  • Fail to sign a job plan at their first job agency appointment; or
  • Are found by their job agency to have behaved inappropriately at an appointment (“inappropriate behaviour” is defined as acting in a manner “such that the purpose of the appointment is not achieved”); or
  • Fail to attend a Work for the Dole or Training exercise without an excuse deemed reasonable by the job agency.

All fines (roughly $55.00) will be deducted immediately. Unemployed Australians who feel they have been unfairly fined will be required to go through Centrelink’s arduous appeals process to get their money back – a procedure that can take up to four months.

This means that even if an unemployed worker successfully appeals against a fine – and thousands do every year – they will still be forced to endure up to four months without a significant portion of their income support. As privately run job agencies can effectively impose these financial penalties on unemployed workers before having to provide any concrete proof, the Coalition’s proposal gives privately owned job agencies the power of life and death over unemployed workers.

With the dole already $391.00 below the poverty line according to the Melbourne Institute, for many unemployed workers a 10% deduction of their income support will place them in severe financial distress. If this proposal is passed next month, unemployed Australians will be just one unfair penalty away from extreme poverty and even homelessness

The dole has already been proven to be not enough to live on. A recent report showed that one in four people on the dole were forced to beg on the streets for more than a year, while 6 in 10 were required to approach a charity for help. Escaping this poverty-trap has become almost impossible for unemployed Australians – according to official government figures there are 11 job seekers competing for each vacancy, even more when you consider low-skill jobs.

With unemployment already a one-way ticket to poverty for many Australians, why is the Turnbull Government introducing a bill that will make it considerably harder for unemployed workers to survive?

To answer this question, it is necessary to understand the employment services industry. Comprised of for-profit and not-for-profit companies ranging from billion-dollar corporations like Max Employment to charities like the Salvation Army, the employment services industry has become a highly lucrative business.

Under the Coalition Government’s 4-year $6.8 billion Jobactive program, Government payments to employment services are tied to a variety of ‘jobseeker outcomes’. The most efficient way for job agencies to maximise outcome payments is to ensure that their unemployed ‘case-load’ are, at a bare minimum, compliant with appointments and activities. Clearly the employment services industry has a financial interest in obtaining increased powers to penalise the unemployed.

With these perverse financial incentives already firmly in play, there are a number of well-documented cases of job agencies bullying unemployed workers. Every day, the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union receives new cases of Australians being bullied into unfair activities or appointments by money-hungry job agencies.

Even if unemployed workers are able to muster up the courage to demand that their rights be recognised, job agencies use the threat of sanctions to ensure compliance. With the continued failure of the Department of Employment to effectively regulate the industry and bring bullying job agencies into line, unemployed workers have nowhere to go. This has created a culture of fear and intimidation throughout the employment service industry.

By proposing that job agencies should be given new unprecedented powers to financially penalise unemployed workers, the Turnbull Government is sending a clear message to the employment services industry that these tactics are not only acceptable but should be intensified.

If you have been unfairly fined by your job agency, join the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union legal challenge against this unfair compliance system by contacting them on contact@unemployedworkersunion.com. You can also participate in the AUWU’s Fight the Fine campaign against this bill. Visit the AUWU’s Facebook page for more info.