Push for public sector to Restart with older staff
Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan says more flexible work arrangements could help retain older workers in the public service.
Ms Ryan was at an event to mark the 2000th employee to start work under the federal government's Restart scheme this week, which she said was an important milestone given the challenges older workers face.
“We're a society that is infatuated with youth, and being in your twenties is wonderful, but we're a society that doesn't value experience and maturity as much as we should,” she said.
“The main challenge is that employers in general have a very negative attitude towards older people, even though older employees tend to be very successful, they stay in the job longer and they have fewer sick days.”
The Restart scheme gives the employers of job seekers aged 50 or older who have been on income support for at least six months up to $10,000 in wage subsidies.
Ms Ryan praised companies like Bunnings for recognising the value and expertise of older workers.
She said the approach should be mirrored across the public service.
“I would like to see more use of flexibility of hours worked and days worked because older workers often have extra responsibilities.
“They may have an older parent who is very frail and needs care and support, or they may be grandparents.
“We know that grandparents are taking on greater responsibility in looking after grandchildren and, like parents, they might need to leave work early to pick them up from school or daycare.”
Ms Ryan urged employers to forget a prospective employees age, race or gender when they applied for a role.
“Look at the job and choose the person who is best equipped for the job you've got, and often that will be an older person, and give them the chance.”
Ms Ryan said employers using the Restart bonus were giving older workers not only a job, but dignity and broad social benefits.
Employment Minister Eric Abetz has been forced to defend Restart in recent weeks, after Senate documents showed employers had taken on just 510 job seekers in the first five months of the scheme, despite projections that it would help 32,000 annually.
The government will re-evaluate Restart in mid-2016.