4.1 The Australian employment landscape has undergone significant shifts in recent years, with changes to the nature of the labour market, work relationships and arrangements as well as the legislative and regulatory framework. Sustaining and increasing workforce participation by mature age workers is critical to meeting the policy challenges presented by an ageing population.[1] The challenge is therefore to ‘re-shape workplaces’ and the employment law framework to facilitate the ongoing involvement of mature age persons in the paid workforce and other productive work.[2]

4.2 This chapter examines barriers in an employment context to mature age persons participating in the paid workforce or other productive work. It identifies barriers at various stages of employment and ways in which these may be addressed, including in relation to: entering and re-entering the workforce; maintaining employment; protections surrounding termination of employment; regulation and monitoring; and education and awareness.

4.3 Reform in this area must address complex and interrelated barriers to workforce participation. This requires a combination of legislative and regulatory reform, as well as measures to increase education and awareness and address perceptions and stereotypes surrounding mature age workers. In this chapter 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 (FWO) consider issues relating to mature age workers in conducting national campaigns and audits.

[1] See, eg, Australian Human Rights Commission, Working Past Our 60s: Reforming Law and Policies for the Older Worker (June 2012); Deloitte Access Economics, Increasing Participation Among Older Workers: The Grey Army Advances (2012), prepared for the Australian Human Rights Commission; The Treasury, Intergenerational Report 2010—Australia to 2050: Future Challenges (2010).

[2] Advisory Panel on the Economic Potential of Senior Australians, Realising the Economic Potential of Senior Australians—Turning Grey into Gold (2011), 1.