Ageism isn’t just a social problem, it’s illegal – yet many employers are frequently breaking the law by setting age limits when hiring new staff.
That is according to new figures from the Australian Human Rights Commission, which found that close to one-third of Australian employers actively set age limits when hiring for vacant roles.
For most, that age is 50.
More surprisingly, the flouting of the law comes despite most employers acknowledging that the loss of older workers has had a detrimental impact on the overall skills and experience of their workforce.
“At age 50, many workers are still optimising what they have to offer employers after several decades of honing skills,” said Ian Yates, chief executive of COTA Australia.
Mr Yates did note, though, that the proportion of employers with age restrictions on job applicants has fallen considerably in recent years, when close to three-quarters (71 per cent) had such restrictions in place as recently as 2014.
“While there has been an improvement over the last four years, it’s scandalous that one in three employers discriminate on the basis of age, which is not only ageist and prejudiced, it’s illegal,” he said.
“Tens of thousands of mature, well qualified Australians are still being ruled out on the basis of their age, before they even have the chance to demonstrate they have the skills, experience and ability to the job.”
These latest statistics come after Tim Hessell, a former HR executive, told My Business about a “palpable sense of ageism at the point of hire”, and detailed his own experience in being deliberately ruled out of contention for jobs because of his age.
Mr Hessell said that while many businesses are trying to be agile in the modern market, traditional models of a staff hierarchy – where graduates come on board and develop overtime into management – are seeing employers recruit based on age rather than skills and suitability for a particular role.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.