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Positive senior man in eyeglasses showing thumbs up and looking at camera. Age Discrimination

How to Prevent Age Discrimination in Recruitment

Age discrimination can happen to us all.

Age discrimination or ageism is when someone defines your abilities by your age and discriminates against you because it.
Usually, these assumptions are totally inaccurate reflections of your actual abilities and stem from a place of bias and prejudice.
As the Australian workforce continues to live longer, our workforce will become increasingly reliant on older workers.

From 2001 to 2021 the workforce participation rate of older Australians (over 65) grew from 6.1% to 15% in 2021.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

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Despite an ageing workforce, ageism is on the rise. We can all educate ourselves to help reduce discrimination at work or while hiring. Not only is it discriminatory, under the Age Discrimination Act 2004, Ageism is also illegal.

Man in Blue Long Sleeve Sweater Using Cellphone. Age Discrimination

What does Age Discrimination look like?

It is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of age when advertising jobs, during recruitment and selection processes.

Examples of discrimination during these processes could include;

  • not employing certain people because they won’t ‘fit in’ with other employees because of their age
  • not employing younger workers because of assumptions that they will quickly move on to another job
  • advertising a position for someone aged ‘under 30’ to join a ‘dynamic, young team’
  • making choices around redundancy, or forcing someone to retire, because of his or her age, or
  • harassing or bullying a person because of his or her age.

Direct or Indirect Discrimination

There are two types of discrimination.

Direct age discrimination happens when a person is treated less favourably because of his or her age than a person of another age would be treated in the same or similar circumstances. For example if an older person is selected for redundancy because they are closer to retirement age.

Indirect discrimination occurs when conditions are put in place which appear to treat everyone the same but disadvantages some people because of their age. For example it could be indirect discrimination if an employer requires an older person to meet a physical fitness test. More young people than old people will be able to pass this test and that is discriminatory if that fitness standard is not actually necessary for the job in question.

Elderly Man in Red Long Sleeve Shirt Lifting Dumbbells. Fitness test. Ageism

Age Discrimination & Inherent Requirements

However under the ADA 2004 it is not against the law to not hire someone on the basis of being unable to meet the ‘inherent requirements’ of the position. For example, if a young person is too young to drive they would be unable to meet the ‘inherent requirements’ of a courier role.

What can you do if you have been discriminated against because of your age?

The Age Discrimination Act 2004 (ADA) and the Fair Work Act 2009 each prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of age. It applies to workers of any age.

There are four steps to follow if you think you’ve experienced age discrimination:

  1.  If your workplace has an anti-discrimination policy or grievance policy, look at these to help you clearly state your complaint.
  2. Report the matter to your manager.
  3. If it doesn’t get resolved with your manager, lodge a formal complaint to HR.
  4. If the situation doesn’t get resolved to your satisfaction, you can make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission or contact the Fair Work Comission for assistance.

How can hiring managers fight age discrimination?

#1 Reduce your assumptions

Without realising it or maybe based on past experiences you may be holding onto various assumptions about people of certain ages. As a hiring manager, it’s important for you to avoid these assumptions.

Some commonly held beliefs about older candidates include that they won’t be willing to commit to longer term employment due to being so close to retirement age.

This assumes that younger people are more likely to commit to a place long term which certainly isn’t always the case.

Another assumption is that older candidates have an unwillingness to learn and adapt to new technology.

For younger candidates, people may assume that they lack experience. But what they lack in experience they can make up for in enthusiasm and willingness to train.

Another assumption is that they will be less committed to the role.

Receiving a counter offer. Age discrimination while interviewing

#2 Don’t ask for their age during the hiring process

This is actually illegal. Ages and dates of birth should not come up in interviews or be included on resumes.

#3 Focus on diversity

Diversity is a broad goal for many organisations. Try to build an age-diverse team when hiring. Rather than having three executives the same age it is worthwhile to have a mix of older and younger employees as they can counter each other’s bias.

Ageist terms to avoid when hiring.

Entrepreneur rejecting offering from man with outstretched hand. Ageism.

We have the power to fight age discrimination

 

“Digital Natives”

Suggests that you only want applicants who were born in the digital era.

 

“Millennials Wanted”

Speaks for itself.

 

“Mature Experienced Professional”

Age does not guarantee maturity or professionalism.

 

” X number of years experience”

Instead ask for specific skills, and times when they have demonstrated them. Here at Frazer Tremble we recently hired David (78) into a senior executive position with a top Australian Bio Oil Company. When we remove age bias from our hiring processes we create incredible opportunities for everyone to succeed and grow. Think you can spot ageism in the workplace? Try our Quiz

Want to learn more about age discrimination? Check out these resources

The Power of Oldness

Australian Human Rights Commission – Age Discrimination

Know your rights – Age Discrimination

How to Avoid Age Discrimination in the Workplace

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