Published on 30 May 2013.

Access All Ages—Older Workers and Commonwealth Laws

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) today released the final Report for its inquiry into legal barriers to older persons participating in the workforce and other productive work, Access All Ages—Older Workers and Commonwealth Laws (ALRC Report 120, 2013). The Report makes 36 recommendations that address the areas of recruitment and employment, work, health and safety, workers’ compensation, insurance, social security, and superannuation. The keystone recommendation in the Report is for a National Mature Age Workforce Participation Plan to provide a coordinated policy response to address barriers to participation by mature age people in the Australian labour market.

ALRC President Professor Rosalind Croucher said “These recommendations have been developed in the light of six interlinking principles—participation, independence, self-agency, system stability, system coherence, and fairness—that assisted in balancing a range of competing priorities.  The ALRC suggests that a combination of legislative and regulatory reform is needed, together with measures to increase education and awareness and address perceptions and stereotypes surrounding mature age workers.

Finding the answers to enabling workforce participation and maintaining workforce attachment by older Australians requires a broader focus than just on law. The ALRC considers that a major coordinating initiative, the National Mature Age Workforce Participation Plan, will provide the focus and impetus both to the recommendations of this Report and the considerable activity that is also occurring across Government, industry and the community.”

The ALRC was assisted in this Inquiry by the Hon Susan Ryan AO, Age Discrimination Commissioner. Commissioner Ryan said, “Australia needs the continuing contribution of older people, as workers or as volunteers. Most older people want to continue contributing. Many need to for their financial and personal wellbeing. The Australian Government, along with all employers large and small, should act on the recommendations and insights of this report and immediately start tearing down barriers.”  Commissioner Ryan called on the community as a whole to abandon negative stereotypes of older people and support their access to jobs and other productive work.

The ALRC considers that the Report’s recommendations, taken together, will provide: 

  • a coordinated policy response to enabling mature age workforce participation;
  • consistency across Commonwealth laws and between Commonwealth and state and territory laws to support mature age workforce participation;
  • a reduction in age discrimination;
  • a greater awareness of mature age workers’ rights and entitlements;
  • support for maintaining attachment to the workforce for mature age people; and
  • work environments, practices and processes that are appropriate for mature age workers.

The Report and Summary Report can be viewed, downloaded or purchased on the ALRC website. The Report is also available for free as an ebook, for use in mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.