money & Banking

Thu, 17 Jul, 2014Danielle Hanrahan

Why employers should be hiring over-60s

Why employers should be hiring over-60s

This age group is loyal, experienced and the fastest growing labour market in Australia, so why aren’t more employers hiring workers in their 50s and 60s? Here’s why they should.

There has never been a better time for jobseekers in their 60s to jump back into the workforce, with the government announcing it will chip in $10,000 to business owners who employ workers over the age of 50. The decision to expand the senior employment incentive payment scheme was announced in the May budget.

This will see business owners receive $3000 followed by a second $3000 payment if they keep a mature worker in employment for 12 months. A further $2000 will be given to those who keep over-50s employed in the workplace for 18 months until a final payment of $2000 is provided if they employ the person for over two years.

Heidi Holmes, managing director of jobs board for jobseekers over-45 Adage.com.au, says mature age workers offer a number of benefits to business owners. “Mature age workers offer a great return on investment for employers as they will reward employers with loyalty, increased productivity and also take less sick days,” she reveals. “Research has shown a mature age worker will stay with an organisation up to 2.5 times longer than a young employee.”

Sydney-based retirement coach Peter Black agrees, adding that these workers are motivated to work because they’d like to continue learning and engaging with other people, as well as to boost their retirement savings.

A growing talent pool
It’s no secret that Australia’s population is ageing, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics predicting that by 2041 one in five people will be over 65 and seven per cent of the population will be over 80.

Ms Holmes says employers can no longer afford to neglect this talent pool as the 45-plus market represents the fastest growing labour market segment in Australia. “Often employers haven’t considered the mature age workforce as a separate talent pool they need to target directly,” she explains.

“Unconscious bias against mature age workers may also be playing a part in mature applicants being screened out of the application process. Hiring managers and recruiters need to be educated on the benefits mature age workers bring to the table in order to tackle any negative bias that may exist.”

While illegal, age discrimination continues in Australia. The Fair Work Ombudsman welcomed a court ruling in April this year when two Thai restaurants on the Gold Coast were fined nearly $30,000 for telling a worker that he would be terminated on his 65th birthday. The worker had a good employment record at the restaurant over a number of years.

Mr Black says age discrimination continues, as does misperceptions about the motivation of mature workers. “Younger managers and human resources professionals don’t appear to value experience. However, companies like Bunnings and the banks are recognising the value of older workers in communicating with front-line customers,” he explains.

“Also, a declining pool of total workers due to baby boomers retiring over coming years will necessitate employers to relook mature workers to accommodate their growth needs.”

Michael O’Neill, chief executive of consumer lobby group National Seniors Australia, is another industry representative who has been vocal in encouraging the government and the corporate sector to tackle community attitudes towards workers in their 50s and 60s, as well as promoting workplace flexibility.

Currently, older job seekers are unemployed for an average of 71 weeks compared to younger workers with an average of 41 weeks. If there was just a five per cent increase in paid employment of Australians over age 55 it would add $48 billion to the economy a year, according to research by the Human Rights Commission.

More support is needed
Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan says the government needs to do more to ensure older Australians will have the same opportunities as everyone else to access paid work. While the staggered $10,000 incentive for employers to hire a person over 50 is encouraging, it doesn’t shift the entrenched cultural attitudes and structural barriers that exclude older workers from the workforce.

Training and development of older workers is important if people in their 50s and 60s are to have a chance of either remaining or returning to the workforce. On top of this, employers need to realise the benefits of maintaining their older workers for more years in the job.

“This might require workplace flexibility and some retraining,” Commissioner Ryan explains. “Government has a role in supporting a more positive and productive approach to longer working lives.”

It’s a win-win for both businesses and those looking for work. Unlike some workers in the younger generations, people over 50 place a higher value on job security and are motivated to perform to the best of their ability. This offers a great return on investment for employers, especially small businesses, who would not only benefit the most from the cash incentive but also from an employee who research shows stays in a job longer.