Employers are being accused of ageism when it comes to recruiting new staff, with examples of blatant discrimination and ignorance of the skills of older Australians as well as anti-discrimination rules.
The Benevolent Society, described as Australia’s oldest charity at 205 years old, recently surveyed 1,005 people aged 50 and over about their experience of ageism in the workplace.
While 31 per cent of respondents said they have never experienced discrimination on the grounds of their age, many others claimed it was an active part of their working life.
Sometimes it took the form of jokes or comments by colleagues and managers, or being patronised as if they didn’t understand certain aspects of the job. Yet 35 per cent said they have been actively excluded from work conversations, conferences or training because of their age.
According to the research, the most confronting examples of ageism were found among those looking for work rather than those already employed.
Respondents admitting to be told things such as “no one can work here if they’re born before 1960”; “I was told I was too old to be employable” and “you’re too old and we don’t hire people with disability”.
“Unfortunately, this goes on every day in many workplaces. Even though it’s illegal to discriminate on the basis of age, people are told to their faces: ‘you’re too old’,” said Marlene Krasovitsky, director of campaigns – Older Australians.
Last year, My Business reported on a LinkedIn post describing the phenomenal resistance one manager received when wanting to hire someone aged over 50.
“‘He will never work hard enough’, ‘he will not fit into our culture’, ‘he will be taking a lot of sick days’, ‘he is overqualified’ etc. Nobody said he was too old. They were all ‘politically correct’,” the manager recalled.
The Australian Human Rights Commission notes that “the Age Discrimination Act makes it against the law to treat you unfairly because of your age in different areas of public life, such as work, education and buying goods and services”.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.