Published on 1 May 2012.
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The Australian Law Reform Commission today released an Issues Paper for its Inquiry into legal barriers to mature age participation in the workforce and other productive work—Grey Areas: Age Barriers to Work in Commonwealth Laws (ALRC IP 41, 2012).

Australia’s population is ageing rapidly. By 2044–45 almost one in four Australians will be aged 65 years or older and this will have a significant implication for Australia’s economy with the need to encourage people to stay at work for as long as they are able and willing. This Inquiry forms part of the Australian Government’s response to this issue. The ALRC has been asked to look at a range of laws, including superannuation law; family assistance, child support and social security law; employment law; insurance law; compensation laws; and any other relevant Commonwealth legislation exempt under the Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth). For the purposes of this Inquiry mature age is defined as being over 45 years.

ALRC President Professor Rosalind Croucher said “There is often a complex interaction between things that are ‘barriers’ to workforce participation and things that are ‘incentives’ to leave the workforce. Leaving the paid workforce may also mean people are able to make a valuable contribution in other productive work—like the hugely important role of volunteers in our community.

The ALRC considers that six interlinking principles should guide reform in this area: participation; independence; self-agency; system stability; system coherence; and fairness. One key question we are asking in the Issues Paper is whether there are any other principles that should inform our deliberations. Other questions refer to changes that should be made to remove barriers in the various areas of law under review.”

This Issues Paper forms a basis for consultation. It is intended to encourage informed community participation in the Inquiry by providing background information and highlighting the issues so far identified by the ALRC. The ALRC invites individuals and organisations to make submissions in response to the questions contained in the Issues Paper, or to any of the background material and analysis provided.  This community input will help inform the development of draft recommendations for reform to be released in a Discussion Paper later in the year.

Part-time Commissioner for the Inquiry, the Hon Susan Ryan AO, stated “A socially inclusive society is one in which everyone is valued and has the opportunity to participate fully in the life of our society, including participation in paid work where that is the person’s choice.

To achieve such a society we must identify and remove the barriers to such participation, whether they be in our laws, or in the legal frameworks or procedures that surround those laws. We want people to be able to make their own decisions about matters affecting them. Self-agency is fundamentally important in underpinning independence and participation. We want to ensure that the legal system supports them in their decisions.”

The Issues Paper may be downloaded free of charge from the ALRC website, <www.alrc.gov.au>. Hard copies may be obtained on request by contacting the ALRC.

Submissions using the ALRC’s online submission form can be made at: <www.alrc.gov.au/content/age-barriers-work-issues-paper>. Written submissions can also be posted, faxed or emailed to the ALRC.

Postal address GPO Box 3708 Sydney NSW 2001

Telephone (02) 82386333  Fax (02) 82386363

Closing date for submissions is Thursday 14 June 2012.

For more information about the ALRC’s inquiry and to subscribe to the Age Barriers to Work e-newsletter please go to www.alrc.gov.au/inquiries/age-barriers-work.

The final Report is to be delivered by 31 March 2013.