Following on from my last blog post, I wanted to touch on another candidate group that we work with, Senior Australians. Senior Australians face a number of barriers to finding employment and this reflects our recent decision to expand to include those 55 and over into our candidate pool. Enabled Employment is in a unique position to break down these barriers and stereotypes and help those facing discrimination to find work.
When you turn 55, you become exposed to the stereotypes which are unfortunately held by many employers about your worth as an employee. Figures released by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) indicate complaints made on age discrimination are rising, the National Prevalence Survey results provide clear evidence of age discrimination in Australian workplaces. Over a quarter (27%) of Australians aged 50 years and over indicated that they had experienced some form of age discrimination on at least one occasion in the workplace in the last two years. The highest incidence of age discrimination was observed in the population aged between 55 and 64 years old.
The same survey by the HREOC found the most commonly experienced forms of age discrimination were limited employment, promotion or training opportunities and perceptions that older people have outdated skills, or were too slow to learn new things. Jokes and derogatory comments based on age were also amongst the most common discriminatory behaviours reported.
And if that’s not soul destroying enough, there’s also a 60 per cent chance you’ll have acquired a disability during your lifetime. In an ageing population, this means you’ll also be joining the ranks of people with a disability trying to access work, if you haven’t been able to retire by now. That opens up a whole new range of barriers for you when trying to find the right job. Any job.
There’s a significant advantage to employing a person with the right skill set, regardless of age or acquired disability, and investing a small amount of time in thinking about reasonable adjustment and flexible working conditions. That opens up access to thousands and thousands of Australians, who, at 55, don’t want to give up working, but may need some accessibility brokering to be able to perform to the best of their ability at work. And employers receive the benefit of a senior Australian’s knowledge, skills and qualifications, leadership skills and a loyal employee.
What is flexible working?
Flexible working conditions include a number of options. They include working from home, flexible hours, job sharing, and a results only work environment (where you have set goals, and you achieve them at your own pace at any time of day or night that suits you).
Our push for flexible working suits both people with a disability and senior Australians. The thing is, we keep repeating, if you get it right for people with a disability, you get it right for everyone.
How can Enabled Employment help?
Our company operates on the principle of ‘positive discrimination’. The categories we count as our candidates include senior Australians, people with a disability, former serving Australian Defence Force members and their supporting family, and other categories defined under Section 22 of the Anti-Discrimination Act. Everybody in our candidate database faces some sort of preconceived stereotype when seeking employment, which becomes a barrier to re-entering or entering the workplace.
What we do with the employers who advertise with us is called ‘accessibility brokering’. We’ll sit down with you and find out what flexible working conditions, aids or equipment you need to do the job if you’re successful in your application and interview, and negotiate your flexible working conditions with the employer.
As we find more and more employers who recognise that work opportunities are often limited for all the inclusion categories on our website, we change the conversation, challenge the stereotypes, and undertake accessibility brokering. This gives people a decent chance at a job, and ensures you’re not set up to fail because the right conditions are in place for you to be safe, and comfortable in your new job.
Changing the narrative
We have a long way to go in changing the narrative around our inclusion groups, and Australian employers need fresh ideas, and a new definition of ‘diversity’. While employers continue to include women, LGBTI, multicultural background and Indigenous Australians in their diversity policy but leave out senior Australians, and people with a disability, it doesn’t represent true diversity. Diversity is about reflecting the community in our society in our workforce, and no community is without senior Australians, people with a disability, or ex-Australian Defence Force members.
Until we do change the narrative – and the definition of true diversity – there remains a significant portion of the population that are disadvantaged by being unable to access work.
And it’s hard to prove. Unless you can get a specific comment in writing from a job interview that clearly is discriminatory and not a judgement based on your skill set, experience and qualifications, you have no hope of claiming discrimination. And even if you do, the employer concerned may or may not learn their lesson. Our Anti-Discrimination Act is clear in its intent, but rather toothless in applying real penalties.
We continue to advise government, policy makers and employers to change the way we think about work, in a digital age – where work is accessible to all using technology at home, and teleworking. At the same time, we want to continue to put people into work. The imperative for us to do so is business related – as we accept no government funding, we depend on putting people into work to survive as a business. Our core function is to ensure people have opportunity, and by raising the issues in public we will continue to raise awareness.
The aim of the entire exercise is to ‘normalise’ the recruitment and retention of our inclusion groups, so that it is considered by employers as a natural part of their recruitment process to ensure candidates with a disability and senior Australians, and our other inclusion groups, are specifically acknowledged in their diversity policy and their recruitment processes.
At the end of the day, it’s down to us to achieve social change. That won’t happen overnight, but we are extremely gratified to find so many businesses in Australia, so far, that agree with us.
We’re here with more than a purpose for business, we’re here to change the game, and win the hearts and minds of employers all over the country. And we’re determined to make it happen.