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Age discrimination is against the law. It is defined by the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board as “when you have been treated unfairly because of your age or because you are the relative, friend or colleague of someone of a particular age”.
Indirect age discrimination is also illegal. This is when there is a rule or requirement that is the same for everyone but unfairly affects people of a particular age or age group.
Research published by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2015 identified the following types of age discrimination:
- being “shut out” at the point of recruitment
- “pigeon holing” and being stuck in a role
- being targeted for redundancy or during a restructure
- the culture of a workplace and its managerial practises.
Some of the behaviours that clearly presented overt age discrimination included the intent to manage out an older individual despite their performance and expertise.
Associate Professor Alysia Blackham, from the University of Melbourne, reports that ageism is the most common type of discrimination in the UK and Europe, and in the US around 61 per cent of workers aged 45 or over reported witnessing or experiencing ageism in the workplace. In Australia women report experiencing high levels of age discrimination at work. Women were more likely than men to report that their experience of discrimination affected their self-esteem, mental health or stress levels. Blackham writes that a more proactive and preventative approach to address any organisational failings is needed.
The Australian Human Rights Commission study also found that a fundamental requirement to eliminate age discrimination is the necessity to shift the stereotypes and misconceptions around older workers by recognising “their capacity and capability and inspire a more positive understanding and appreciation of the older worker”.
What can you do about age discrimination?
Advice on how to act, from TR8 Discrimination, includes:
- tell the person that their behaviour is inappropriate and that it must stop
- document the dates and circumstances of the perceived discrimination
- obtain advice about how to lodge a formal complaint. For more advice ring Professional Support on 1300 654 367.
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