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The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has released its final report into the age barriers to participating in the workforce.

The Report, ‘Access All Ages – Older Workers and Commonwealth Laws’ will be of particular interest to working carers, many of whom will be ageing and feeling the pressure of keeping their job.

With competition from much younger employees coming into the labour market and the high number of redundancies now being forced on mainly mature-age workers, the Report could not be more timely

The Report makes 36 recommendations that address the areas of recruitment and employment, work, health and safety, workers’ compensation, insurance, social security, and superannuation.

The ALRC 'Age Barriers to Work' inquiry arose out of concerns about the implications of an ageing population and the recognition that expanding the workforce participation of older Australians may go some way to meeting such concerns.

The ALRC was asked to identify what, if any, changes could be made to relevant Commonwealth legislation and legal frameworks to remove barriers.

The Report’s recommendations capture some of the momentum for reform, complementing other work in the broader area of policy development affecting mature age people.

The ALRC also gives voice to wider concerns where those have been highlighted throughout the Inquiry such as: how do you break down the barriers to workforce participation faced by mature age people? What are the barriers that stand in the way? What can law and legal frameworks do about it? These were the key challenges for the ALRC in this Inquiry.

The Report notes that law reform can remove barriers to mature age workforce participation by removing specific age limits, and by making discrimination on the basis of age unlawful. But law can only go so far.

Achieving cultural change was singled out by stakeholders in the Inquiry as crucial for reform. It was seen as ‘the real game changer’. But law reform has its part in contributing to cultural change and can lead it in some respects, the Report found.

The keystone recommendation in the Report is for a National Mature Age Workforce Participation

Plan to provide a coordinated policy response to address barriers to participation by mature age people in the Australian labour market.

The ALRC suggests that a combination of legislative and regulatory reform is needed, together with measures to increase education and awareness and address perceptions and stereotypes surrounding mature age workers.

A number of recommendations are directed towards removing age discrimination in legislation and practice. In some cases the ALRC recommends amendments; in some, reviews.

Two recommendations in the Report are specifically directed towards enabling carers to retain an attachment to the paid workforce.

  • recognise the compatibility of paid work and caring responsibilities; and
  • support the flexibility in work that enables choices to be made in relation to caring.

The ALRC considers that the Report’s recommendations, taken together, will provide:

  • a coordinated policy response to enabling mature age workforce participation;
  • consistency across Commonwealth laws and between Commonwealth and state and territory laws to support mature age workforce participation;
  • a reduction in age discrimination;
  • a greater awareness of mature age workers’ rights and entitlements;
  • support for maintaining attachment to the workforce for mature age people; and
  • work environments, practices and processes that are appropriate for mature age workers.

The Report can be viewed, downloaded or purchased on the ALRC website at

http://www.alrc.gov.au/publications/access-all-ages-report120 The final Report is also freely available as an e-book.