Report structure

1.61 This Report is divided into eight chapters. The first two chapters introduce the Inquiry, describe the reform process and set out relevant conceptual and contextual issues—including the framing principles for reform.

1.62 Chapter 3 concerns the keystone recommendation of a National Mature Age Workforce Participation Plan, to provide a coordinated policy response to addressing barriers to the participation of mature age persons in the Australian labour market. The ALRC suggests that the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing, or a similar body, lead the development of the plan.

1.63 This is followed by five chapters focusing upon the specific areas identified in the Terms of Reference.

1.64 Recruitment and Employment is covered in Chapter 4. This chapter examines barriers in an employment context to mature age persons participating in the paid workforce or other productive work. It identifies barriers in relation to both finding and keeping a job and recommends ways these barriers may be addressed, including legislative and regulatory reform and measures to increase education and awareness. The ALRC makes a number of recommendations aimed at: addressing the practices of recruitment agencies; extending the right to request flexible working arrangements; periods for notice of termination of employment; modern awards; reviewing compulsory retirement; and supporting education and awareness raising and the development of guidance material in a range of areas. The ALRC also recommends that the Fair Work Ombudsman consider issues relating to mature age workers in conducting national campaigns and audits.

1.65 Work Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation is the subject of Chapter 5. This chapter makes a range of recommendations with respect to work health and safety and workers’ compensation. With respect to work health and safety, the ALRC recommends that Safe Work Australia, in implementing the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022 and in its other activities and research, should consider and recognise health and safety issues that may affect mature age workers. Safe Work Australia should also review guidance material and promote recognition of best practice approaches to work health and safety involving mature age workers.

1.66 With respect to workers’ compensation, the ALRC recommends amendments to Commonwealth workers’ compensation legislation to align retirement provisions with the qualifying age for the Age Pension and to extend incapacity payment periods. The inconsistent coverage of volunteers under workers’ compensation is also identified and the ALRC recommends that Safe Work Australia consider this issue. Finally, the ALRC recommends that the superannuation offset provisions under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (Cth) be repealed.

1.67 Insurance is covered in Chapter 6. This chapter examines some of the key concerns with respect to mature age workers and insurance that emerged during the Inquiry, including: the availability of, and information about, insurance products for mature age persons and the relevance, transparency and accessibility of the actuarial and statistical data upon which age-based insurance underwriting and pricing occurs.

1.68 To facilitate the provision of clear and simple information about available insurance products for mature age persons, the ALRC recommends that the Insurance Reform Advisory Group consider options for the development of a central information source. The ALRC recommends a two-fold approach to addressing concerns about actuarial and statistical data. First, the ALRC recommends that the Australian Government and insurers negotiate an agreement requiring the publication of data upon which insurance offerings based on age are made. Secondly, the ALRC recommends review of insurance exceptions under Commonwealth, state and territory anti-discrimination legislation as they apply to age. A related recommendation is the development of guidance material about the application of any insurance exception under Commonwealth legislation. Finally, the ALRC recommends that the General Insurance Code of Practice and the Financial Services Council Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct be amended. The codes should include diversity statements or objects clauses that encourage consideration of the needs and circumstances of a diverse range of consumers, including mature age persons.

1.69 Social Security is covered in Chapter 7. It considers aspects of the social security system that act as barriers to work for mature age persons. The ALRC recommends an evaluation of the methods for communicating information about social security payments and entitlements to mature age persons, and that staff of employment services providers be provided with training tools to improve the quality of job search assistance provided to mature age persons.

1.70 The ALRC also makes recommendations about specific income support payments. The ALRC recommends that the review process for Disability Support Pension be clarified. It also recommends that a more flexible interpretation to combining care with work, education, training or voluntary work be taken when assessing qualification for Carer Payment. Finally, the ALRC proposes that the Work Bonus amount for the Age Pension and Veterans’ Age Service Pension be indexed.

1.71 Superannuation is the focus of Chapter 8. This chapter considers whether the age-based rules regarding the accumulation of, and access to, superannuation impose limitations or barriers that could discourage mature age workforce participation. The ALRC has not found specific evidence that the age limits on contributions create barriers to workforce participation, and has made no recommendations regarding the removal of the age limits. However, concerns have been raised about the work test imposed on people over 65 if they wish to contribute to superannuation. It is not clear that the work test is meeting its policy objective and the ALRC has recommended that the Government review the test.

1.72 There is evidence that age-based rules regarding withdrawals from superannuation accounts have a significant impact on mature age workforce participation. Access to superannuation funds makes retirement possible, or at least more attractive, and increasing access ages is likely to increase older people’s workforce participation rates. Access to superannuation may amount to an incentive to leave the workforce. Delaying access to superannuation may therefore delay retirement and compel workforce participation. As such an outcome would conflict with the framing principles for this Inquiry, particularly independence and self-agency, the ALRC has not made any recommendations for changes to access rules.

1.73 The relationship between access to superannuation and older people’s workforce participation is of significant public interest. For this reason, this chapter reviews the issue and reports on the submissions received on this topic. In particular, the arguments made both for and against changing access rules are examined. Arguments for increasing access ages are concerned with improving the adequacy and sustainability of the superannuation system. They are also concerned with the economic benefits that would accrue if mature age workforce participation increased. If a recommendation to increase access ages is to be made, this should occur after an inquiry that fully considers all of these issues.