Get more from your money with up to 5.00% p.a. interest

with a National Seniors Term Deposit account

Older workers’ rights a priority for new commissioner

The new Age Discrimination Commissioner has started work. What’s he going to do?

  • News
  • Read Time: 4 mins

Australia’s new Age Discrimination Commissioner wants more older people working and is promoting their employment welfare as a key priority.

Former NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner, Productivity Commissioner, and Royal Commissioner, Robert Fitzgerald AM, commenced in his new role this month.

In his first statement, he said his immediate and long-term priorities were to eliminate ageism and age discrimination in Australian workplaces and in the health and social service sectors. 

He also wants to better protect people against all forms of abuse and see anti-discrimination laws harmonised across the nation. 

He said the wellbeing of older people “is not being sufficiently supported in practice, and the pending aged care reforms should be seen as just the start. 

“Australian governments and institutions must be encouraged to rethink their entire approach to older people across all sectors. 

“Older people must be empowered to have a voice, enabled to know their rights, and those in vulnerable or unsafe relationships better protected.

Older workers

The new commissioner said older workers were “devalued” and, as a country, we need to “break the cycle of ageism in our workplaces”. 

“It is essential we bring down barriers facing older people so they can contribute their talents and experience to the workforce and ensure respectful treatment.” 

The office of the Age Discrimination Commissioner sits under the Australian Human Rights Commission. Its key projects include employment discrimination and elder abuse. 

Employment discrimination

In 2016, the Australian Human Rights Commission released the report,Willing to Work: National Inquiry into Employment Discrimination against Older Australians and Australians with Disability, which found too many people were shut out of work because of underlying assumptions, stereotypes or myths associated with their age. 

This led to discriminatory behaviours during recruitment, in the workplace, and in decisions about training, promotion, and retirement, voluntary and involuntary. 

The report said, “It is unthinkable that people who lose their jobs in their 50s may live up to another 40 years without paid employment. It is essential to encourage Australians to work for longer, to improve their skills and employability and to remove the barriers to later-life employment.” 

Practical strategies included new systematic monitoring of progress and outcomes, to be underpinned by community education and awareness, supported by accessible information and the removal of policy barriers. 

Elder abuse and positive ageing

Abuse is defined as a single, or repeated, act or lack of appropriate action occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person. 

Elder abuse includes financial, physical, psychological, emotional, and sexual abuse or neglect.  

In June 2017, the Australian Law Reform Commission published a report titled:Elder Abuse — A National Legal Response

Former Age Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Kay Patterson AO, worked alongside organisations and government departments to implement the recommendations from this report and the priorities outlined in the National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians

Australian Human Rights Commission has a wealth of online resources that inform and support older workers and those employers who hire them.

Let pensioners work

A key NSA campaign is to change government policy and community attitudes towards older people staying in and re-entering the workforce. 

There are too many barriers to older people working and we believe that’s letting down the nation by stopping older people contributing to the economy and to their own wellbeing. 

We especially need to retain older workers in the care sector to meet desperate shortages. 

Employment income should be exempt from the income test for pensioners working in the care economy (aged, disability, and childcare). This will give older workers greater income and retain more people in the care sector, ensuring care services can be delivered. 

The benefits

For working pensioners: 

  • Increases both income and savings of low-wealth pensioners, particularly women 
  • Provides social and emotional benefits from ongoing workforce engagement. 

For aged care 

  • Will boost workforce participation helping to meet growing demand for care workers. 

For the economy: 

  • Addresses workforce shortages 
  • Pensioners earning additional income would pay additional income tax, offsetting additional pension costs.  

Learn more and join our Let Pensioners Work campaign here

Related reading: Human Rights 1, Human Rights 2, NSA 


John Austin

John Austin

Policy and Communications Officer, National Seniors Australia

We've got your back

With National Seniors, your voice is valued. Discover how we campaign for change on your behalf.

Learn more