The recommendations

Net effect

The Terms of Reference required the ALRC to review a number of distinct and discrete areas of law, to identify potential barriers to mature age persons’ workforce participation, and to recommend law reform solutions. As finding the answers to enabling workforce participation by older Australians requires a broader focus than just on law, the ALRC considers that a major coordinating initiative is needed in the form of a National Mature Age Workforce Participation Plan. This is the first and keystone recommendation in this Report.[9] Taken together, the other recommendations will amount to specific strategies in the implementation of the National Plan. Their net effect will be to 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 persons; and

  • work environments, practices and processes that are appropriate for mature age workers.

Achieving a coordinated policy response

In addition to the recommendation for a National Plan, other recommendations throughout the Report also reflect the theme of achieving a coordinated policy response to mature age workforce participation, with the aim that:

  • the social security and superannuation systems do not discourage or prevent workforce participation;[10]

  • policy responses are guided by relevant reviews, which have considered issues affecting mature age workers;[11] and

  • certain agencies or bodies will work together to facilitate the development of coordinated policy responses.[12]

Improving consistency of laws

Some of the recommendations aim to improve consistency across Commonwealth laws and between Commonwealth and state and territory laws to support mature age workforce participation. These recommendations concern:

  • Commonwealth workers’ compensation laws;[13]

  • the retirement age of judicial and quasi-judicial appointments;[14] and

  • the insurance exceptions in Commonwealth, state and territory anti-discrimination legislation.[15]

Removing age discrimination

A number of recommendations are directed towards removing age discrimination in legislation and practice. In some cases, the ALRC recommends amendments; in some, reviews. For example, reviews are recommended for:

  • compulsory retirement ages of judicial and quasi-judicial appointments, and military personnel;[16]

  • licensing or re-qualification requirements, with the Australian Human Rights Commission facilitating the development of guidelines to assist;[17] and

  • the insurance exceptions under Commonwealth, state and territory anti-discrimination legislation.[18]

Amendments are recommended in specific areas:

  • to ensure access to incapacity payments under Commonwealth workers’ compensation schemes;[19]

  • to provide that government co-contributions of superannuation for low-income earners do not cease at age 71 years;[20] and

  • to ensure the amount of compensation payable to an employee under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (Cth) is not reduced by reference to superannuation.[21]

Age discrimination is also addressed through recommendations directed towards promoting awareness of the rights and entitlements of mature age workers.

Promoting awareness of rights and entitlements

Recommendations throughout this Report reflect the importance of promoting awareness of mature age workers’ rights and entitlements: by recruiters, by job services providers, by employers, and by mature age workers. Mature age workers also need information that supports their ability to make choices in employment. They need to know what rights and entitlements they have to make such choices.

Promoting awareness of the rights and entitlements of mature age workers is therefore crucial and is seen in recommendations in this Report about:

  • codes of conduct;[22]

  • national campaigns and audits;[23]

  • training;[24]

  • information provision;[25]

  • guidance material;[26] and

  • recognition of best practice.[27]

Maintaining workforce attachment

A number of recommendations in this Report seek to enable mature age people to remain attached to the workforce. Maintaining workforce attachment is supported through recommendations to ensure:

  • insurance coverage is available and appropriate for continued participation in work or other productive work;[28]

  • there are no gaps under the Commonwealth workers’ compensation schemes in entitlement, and that incapacity payment periods are extended, to ensure injured mature age workers remain connected to rehabilitation and return to work support services;[29] and

  • mature age workers are provided with longer periods of notice for termination of employment.[30]

Recommendations are also directed towards improving employment services for unemployed mature age people. Recruiters are key gatekeepers in the employment process. Ensuring that they are aware of their obligations and appreciate the value of mature age workers is essential.[31] Similarly, mature age job seekers need to be supported by Job Services Australia staff who understand their needs.[32]

Other recommendations seek to remove disincentives to work that may be associated with receipt of income support payments, including the Age Pension and Disability Support Pension.[33]

Two recommendations in this Report are directed towards enabling carers to retain an attachment to the paid workforce. These recommendations:

  • recognise the compatibility of paid work and caring responsibilities;[34] and

  • support the flexibility in work that enables choices to be made in relation to caring.[35]

Improving work environments, practices and processes

Ensuring that work environments, practices and processes are safe and conducive to worker health and wellbeing is central to facilitating the ongoing participation of mature age workers in paid employment and other productive work. Recommendations in this Report are therefore directed towards ensuring that health and safety issues affecting mature age workers are:

  • considered in implementing the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022;[36]

  • included in Safe Work Australia’s research and evaluation strategy and work plans;[37] and

  • acknowledged through recognition of best practice.[38]


The approach to law reform in this Report includes a mix of strategies, directed, for example, at legislation, codes of practice, guidelines, education and training. Although the Report is presented to the Attorney-General, some of its recommendations are directed to other government agencies and bodies, professional associations and institutions, for action or consideration.

The Terms of Reference did not give unlimited licence to consider matters that were wider than ones anchored in the idea of workforce participation. Many throughout this Inquiry spoke about broader issues—and the ALRC gives voice to such concerns throughout this Report—but the Recommendations are kept within the brief as defined by the Terms of Reference. By drawing attention to wider concerns, however, this Report can provide a catalyst to further work as well as complement initiatives already in train. All such activity will have a place within the framework set by a National Mature Age Workforce Participation Plan.

[9] Recommendation 3–1.

[10] Recommendations 7–3, 7–4, 7–5, 8–1, 8–3.

[11] Recommendations 4–3, 4–4, 4–10, 4–12.

[12] Recommendations 4–5, 4–6, 4–11, 4–12, 5–1, 5–3, 5–4, 6–4.

[13] Recommendation 5–5.

[14] Recommendation 4–13.

[15] Recommendation 6–4.

[16] Recommendations 4–13, 4–14.

[17] Recommendation 4–11.

[18] Recommendation 6–4.

[19] Recommendations 5–5, 5–7.

[20] Recommendation 8–2.

[21] Recommendation 5–9.

[22] Recommendations 4–3, 4–4, 6–6.

[23] Recommendations 4–2.

[24] Recommendation 4–5, 7–2.

[25] Recommendation 4–8, 6–1, 7–1.

[26] Recommendations 4–5, 4–8, 4–11, 5–3, 6–5, 7–3, 7–4.

[27] Recommendations 4–6, 5–4.

[28] Recommendations 6–1, 6–2, 6–3.

[29] Recommendations 5–5, 5–6, 5–7.

[30] Recommendation 3–7.

[31] Recommendations 4–3, 4–4, 4–5.

[32] Recommendation 7–2.

[33] Recommendations 7–3, 7–5.

[34] Recommendation 7–4.

[35] Recommendation 4–7.

[36] Recommendation 5–1.

[37] Recommendation 5–2.

[38] Recommendations 4–6, 5–4.