find the latest legal job
Corporate Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Highly-respected, innovative and entrepreneurial Not-for-Profit · Competency based Board
View details
Chief Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Dynamic, high growth organisation · ASX listed market leader
View details
In-house Projects Lawyer | Renewables / Solar | 2-5 Years PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: All Australia
· Help design the future · NASDAQ Listed
View details
Insurance Lawyer (1-3 PAE)
Category: Insurance and Superannuation Law | Location: Sydney NSW 2000
· Join a dynamic Firm · Excellent career growth opportunity
View details
In-house lawyer 1-4 PAE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Leading Brand · Report to a Dynamic Legal Counsel
View details
Discrimination a mature woe

Discrimination a mature woe

NEW AGE discrimination laws are said to be the primary cause of increased age discrimination complaints by The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) for the reporting…

NEW AGE discrimination laws are said to be the primary cause of increased age discrimination complaints by The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) for the reporting year 2004-05.

Out of 1,241 complaints, 78 age-bias complaints were received, according to the report, with almost half of these deriving from people aged between 45 and 64.

While agreeing that the new Federal age discrimination laws have some part to play in the rising number of age complaints, Alison Monroe, director of SageCo, believes that increased publicity of the issue is another factor to be considered. “We’ve particularly seen increased media and social commentary on the aging of the workforce over the past two years. This is educating employer groups about the need to act, but also it is raising the level of awareness among the mature workers in Australia that in fact there is an injustice here to some degree and that they do deserve a fair go when applying for jobs along with their younger cohorts. I think that increased visibility and awareness is lending itself to this increase in the number of complaints,” she said.

Baker & McKenzie partner Michael Michalandos, in the firm’s employment litigation group, said that they too have seen an influx of age discrimination cases. However, despite his acknowledgement of the impact that new laws may have on the number of age-bias cases, Michalandos said he is surprised by the conclusion of HREOC, as age discrimination is something that has been around for quite some time.

Michalandos suggests that the popularity of age discrimination in terms of litigation are also due to holes in unfair dismissal legislation. He said the removal of unfair contract rights for executives earning more than $200,000 in NSW during 2002 has had an impact, leading executives to use discrimination, as they are unable to run an unfair contract claim.

Secondly, Michalandos argues that WorkChoices and the removal of unfair dismissal rights is a factor, “I suspect that under WorkChoices employees will no longer be able to access unfair contract rights in NSW and other rights across Australia, so the only ability for employees to challenge the grounds for termination if they fall outside the unfair dismissal legislation is going to be discrimination and I think we’re going to find that employees that are grieved by a termination will see discrimination as a first resort,” he said.

As a majority of age discrimination complaints are deriving from mature age workers “it is indicative of a culture of phasing out in the latter parts of your career and there’s very much a culture of early retirement that has been driven over the past 20 years. Organisations have in fact provided incentives for individuals to leave the workforce early, both in the public and private sectors and super has also driven the exodus from the workforce because there can be financial disincentives for people continuing to work beyond 55,” said Monroe.

Perhaps more worryingly is the fact that this up turn in discrimination against mature aged workers flies in the face of obvious advantages to organisations to retain their more experienced staff.

Given the aging customer base, shareholders and the broader community, if you can reflect that within your own workforce then you can only stand to benefit, according to Monroe.

Both Monroe and Baker & McKenzie’s Michalandos believe there has not been enough focus on age discrimination and that corporate Australia has been slow to acknowledge the Acts. Better management of age discrimination and a more concentrated focus on the issue is seen as vital in helping reduce claims of age bias in the Australian work force.

“I think most employers have fairly rigorous equal opportunity policies in place, but haven’t yet concentrated on age discrimination as an issue. They’ve concentrated more so on sex discrimination and family responsibilities and I think it is a challenge for employers because often employers that don’t have a sophisticated performance management system in place tend to use age as an out,” said Michalandos.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Discrimination a mature woe
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Unite
Aug 22 2017
Professionals unite in support of marriage equality
The presidents of representative bodies for solicitors, barristers and doctors in NSW have come toge...
Aug 21 2017
Is your firm on the right track for gig economy gains?
Promoted by Crowd & Co. The way we do business, where we work, how we engage with workers, ev...
Scales of Justice, Victorian County Court, retiring judges
Aug 21 2017
Replacements named for retired Vic judges
Two new judicial officers have been appointed in the Victorian County Court, following the retire...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...