What is this information sheet about?
This information sheet discusses the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) Age Barriers to Work Inquiry. It outlines some of the ALRC’s key recommendations aimed at removing barriers to workforce participation for mature age people, and in particular Indigenous mature age people. Further detail about these recommendations can be found in Access All Ages—Older Workers and Commonwealth Laws, ALRC Report 120 (2013) which is available for free download at www.alrc.gov.au.
Mature age Indigenous people
The Terms of Reference for the ALRC’s Inquiry defined ‘older persons’ as anyone over the age of 45 years. There is significant diversity among this age bracket. This diversity affects the needs and priorities of older people.
Older Indigenous people occupy an important place in their communities. They play a significant role in maintaining traditions and links to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.
However, Indigenous people aged 50 years and older tend to have poorer health and higher levels of socio-economic disadvantage, and lower life expectancy than the broader Australian population (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People Cat No IHW 44, (2011), 1).
What was the Inquiry about?
The Commonwealth Attorney-General asked the ALRC to review Commonwealth laws and identify the improvements that could be made to Commonwealth laws to remove barriers to older persons participating in the workforce. The ALRC looked at a number of areas of Commonwealth law, including recruitment, employment, insurance, workers’ compensation, social security and superannuation and made 36 recommendations for reform.
What did the ALRC recommend?
National Workforce Participation Plan
The main recommendation in the Report is for a National Mature Age Workforce Participation Plan. This plan will provide a coordinated policy response to address barriers to participation by mature age people in the Australian labour market. The ALRC recommended that this Plan should take into account the different experiences and needs of mature age workers. Initiatives under the Plan should be tailored to meet the particular needs of employees and employers as well as specific cohorts of mature age people, including Indigenous people.
See Recommendation 3–1
Review and amendment of recruitment industry Codes of Conduct
Mature age job seekers face multiple and intersecting difficulties in entering or re-entering the paid workforce. The ALRC emphasised that recruitment agencies can play an important role in facilitating the employment of mature age workers.
The ALRC recommended that the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) and the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association Australia and New Zealand (RCSA) consider ways in which the AHRI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct and RCSA Code for Professional Conduct could emphasise:
- the importance of client diversity, including mature age job seekers;
- constructive engagement with mature age job seekers; and
- obligations under age-related anti-discrimination and industrial relations legislation.
The ALRC emphasised that such reviews also provide a timely opportunity to consider intersectional discrimination and difficulties faced by Indigenous mature age job seekers.
See Recommendations 4–1 and 4–2
Flexible working arrangements
The ALRC recommended that, under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), all employees who have caring responsibilities should have the right to request flexible working arrangements. This would provide mature age workers with the right to request flexible working arrangements to accommodate their caring responsibilities and address a key barrier to ongoing workforce participation for many people, including Indigenous carers.
The ALRC also recommended that the Fair Work Ombudsman amend material relevant to negotiating and implementing such arrangements to include information for mature age workers. It noted the importance of ensuring such material is accessible for all members of the community—including Indigenous people.
See Recommendations 4–5 and 4–6
Access to information about insurance products
The key barriers for mature age workers appear to arise in relation to income protection insurance, travel insurance and volunteer insurance. Stakeholders expressed concern about access to information about insurance products relevant for mature age workers. The ALRC recommends that the Insurance Reform Advisory Group, or a similar body, consider the development of a central information source. The source should provide mature age workers and volunteers with clear and simple information about insurance products relevant to their participation in paid employment or volunteering. The ALRC noted that any such source should be accessible for all members of the community, including Indigenous people.
See Recommendation 6–1
Access to information about social security
In the Inquiry, the ALRC heard that mature age people find information about social security difficult to understand and navigate. The ALRC recommended that the Department of Human Services evaluate the methods for providing information about social security payments to mature age people.
See Recommendation 7–1
Training for employment services provider staff
Job Services Australia is the Australian Government’s employment services system. General employment services are delivered by Job Services Australia providers: a mix of for-profit and not-for-profit organisations that are contracted by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) under Employment Services Deeds. The Disability Employment Services system provides employment services for job seekers with disability. Indigenous employment services are available through the Job Services Australia network, in conjunction with the Indigenous Employment Program and, in remote areas with poor labour markets, Community Development Employment Projects. From 1 July 2013, employment and participation services and community development programs in remote areas will be provided by a new integrated service, the Remote Jobs and Communities Program.
During this Inquiry, the ALRC heard concerns that mature age job seekers are not receiving the appropriate employment assistance needed to re-engage in the workforce. Some stakeholders submitted that employment services providers were insufficiently responsive to the needs of mature age job seekers. These difficulties may be compounded for mature age job seekers with multiple barriers to work.
The ALRC recommended that DEEWR should ensure that Australian Government employment services provider staff are provided with information and training tools about mature age job seekers, including diversity among mature age job seekers.
See Recommendation 7–2
Education and training
The ALRC also made recommendations about the need for consistent, regular and targeted education and training, and noted that in the course of developing education, training and guidance material, ways these could address the barriers faced by Indigenous people should be considered.
See Recommendation 4–3