At any given time, there are multiple generations operating in the workforce: new starters, more established professionals and those heading towards retirement.
While this can create a diverse positive workplace, where a range of different experiences, attitudes and learnings can be shared, it also creates a possible environment for age discrimination.
Age discrimination can occur at all stages of employment, including recruitment, the general office experience, in workplace terms and conditions and at dismissal.
It is against the law to discriminate against anybody in the workplace because of their actual or assumed age.
There are two main categories of age discrimination:
Although many people assume that only older workers are discriminated against, workers of all ages can become victims of age discrimination.
The applicable Australian legislation is the Age Discrimination Act 2004, which ensures discrimination is against the law, including in employment, accommodation, service provision or education.
However, it is important to remember that in certain circumstances it is lawful and may even be appropriate to treat people of different ages differently. These include:
Similarly, if somebody's age prevents them from performing the inherent requirements of the job they have applied for, it is not discrimination to refuse that employment. For example, if somebody under the age of 18 applies for a job in a bar then it is obviously not discrimination to refuse them employment.
As an employee, if you feel that you are experiencing age discrimination, you can either elect to take up any complaint internally (through the organisation's usual complaints procedures) or by making a written complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission. Once received, the complaint can be investigated, and attempts made to resolve it via conciliation.
Alternatively, a final option could be to pursue a complaint through the Federal Court of Australia or the Federal Circuit Court.
Having strong policies in place to ensure that all staff are treated equally regardless of their age is one of the key factors in preventing age discrimination.
Providing equal access to training opportunities for all employees and offering flexibility around hours regardless of life stage can also help fight discrimination.
If you need help with age discrimination workplace policies and procedures, or if you have a question about age discrimination that you'd like to discuss, contact WISE today for support and guidance.
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