Lets go on a journey together and using the Seek online jobs site wander through the bits and bytes of the virtual employment market and discover how some recruiters and their clients favour prejudice over experience.
Seek has about 70 per cent of Australia’s online job listings. Unfortunately, in my experience, it takes little action to remove ageist or discriminatory recruitment ads.
It states that under its terms and conditions that “You (the advertiser) agree that it is a condition of your use of the SEEK Salary Survey and of any other services provided by SEEK or through the Site that you will not either through any act … or omission mislead or deceive others.”
But under the Fair Work Act (section 28) ‘Goods, services and facilities’ - “It is unlawful for a person who, whether for payment or not, provides goods or services, or makes facilities available, to discriminate against another person on the ground of the other person’s age.”
While SEEK is not the creator of potential discriminatory content – it is providing a service that disseminates it.
Go the Seek website. Enter the location ‘Sydney’ (as it’s a large market). Make the classification ‘Any Classification’ and enter the keywords: ‘Dynamic, Young, Funky (or Fun).’ Hit the ‘seek’ button.
You will have before you between 30-40 job advertisements posted, in the main, by recruitment agencies. We could have got between 300-400 hits if we had searched just for ‘Young’ and ‘Dynamic’.
The jobs displayed before all have a high tolerance for those applicants who, by self-assessment, display all three characteristics. Note how most of the jobs are in the area of media sales, fashion and IT but they can include advertising and web design.
When I worked for DEEWR I would spend a Friday afternoon calling these recruiters.
The first call was to remind them about the Age Discrimination Act of 2004 and how advertisements should focus on the skills, competencies and capabilities of the position rather than the applicant’s age.
To a young man and woman (aged between 25-30), they were the nicest, most polite people one could ever hope to talk to. They listened. They took notes. They agreed with everything I said.
So it was with some curiosity that I would call back a week or so later to ask why they had not changed the copy on their online advertisements.
It had to do with money. The client wanted young people. The client wanted ‘graduates’. The client wanted attractive young women with sales experience - they didn’t want me reading them chapter and verse about THE LAW. Yet it was the recruitment agency that wrote the advertisement.
I always gave intractable recruiters 10 seconds to think about the brand ramifications to their business and that of the client before I rang the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. I discussed calmly the potential for some nasty and negative publicity. I had no compunction about ‘shopping’ them to the law.
What did surprise me was that the staff at SEEK were not greatly interested in amending or removing advertisements that were blatantly ageist. While they were open to receiving complaints, they did not feel bound to do anything about them.
How important is a job? I’m not talking about a career. Just a job. A job that pays the bills, feeds the kids, pays the rent, puts petrol in the car and keeps the wolf from the door. How important is dignity or self-respect? Everyone deserves that. It doesn’t matter if you’re 16 or 65.
Young people know this. You’re fresh out of school, TAFE or university and you want a job. Any job. But the recruiter or employer says you’ve got to have experience. You need employment history – at 17? How can you get work experience when you’ve been sitting at a desk learning differential equations and the works of Tim Winton for the last five years?
It’s time for the recruitment industry to get real. It’s time for jobs boards such as SEEK to have a quiet chat with their clients who place advertisements on their boards that are ageist and which may contravene the Age Discrimination Act.
If they don’t, it’s time for 5.7 million baby boomers to call the recruiters personally. Everyday.
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