Today I had the pleasure of watching on YouTube the official launch of the “Willing to Work Inquiry” by the Australian Human Rights Commission. Led by Anti-discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan the inquiry will tackle the problem of changing attitudes in the workplace to overcome employment discrimination toward mature age people over 55 and those with disabilities.
Currently only 16% of our national workforce is of mature age and Susan Ryan pointed out that “Research by Deloitte shows that increasing the older workforce by 5 per cent would bring an extra $48 billion annually to Australia’s GDP”
Even though there are laws to prevent discrimination on the basis of age or disability she said the challenges are not for stronger enforcement but to change attitudes of employers and change their perceptions of the value to their businesses of mature age workers. She said that numerous major corporations are embracing mature age and workers with disabilities and cited Westpac who now have 12% of their employees as people with a disability and Bunnings who have long had a policy of hiring older trades people into their retail customer service staff with positive results in feedback surveys from customers.
The Inquiry will be conducted at the request of the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, who attended and officially launched the Inquiry this morning. It will be led by the Age and Disability Commissioner, Susan Ryan. The inquiry will seek to identify the barriers that prevent people from working, and in consultation with employers, affected individuals and other stakeholders establish strategies to overcome these barriers.
“Willing to Work is most timely as employment rates for both older people and those with disability remain unacceptably low,” said Commissioner Ryan. While about a quarter of the population is older, they make up just 16 per cent of the workforce. Australians with a disability make up 15 per cent of the working age population, but only 10 per cent of them have jobs.
In response to questions from the media present, Commissioner Ryan commented that there are several entrenched beliefs among business managers about mature age workers, none of which are substantiated by evidence; things like, people over 50 are reluctant to adapt and change, they won’t learn new skills, they don’t relate to the younger staff and they get sick more often. These are the false impressions that must be overcome.
The Inquiry will shortly publish an issues paper, a call for submissions and plans for consultations around the country.
“We hope to engage employers of all sizes across public and private employment as well as older people and people with disability themselves and their representative organisations. We will have the cooperation of the relevant government departments. The common goal is to improve opportunities for those experiencing workplace discrimination and maximise human potential to the benefit of all of us,” said Ms Ryan.
The Inquiry will conclude and report by July 2016.
SilverTemp intends to participate in this inquiry with input from our experiences in finding work for seniors in the Northern Rivers of NSW