Federal laws would outlaw age discrimination

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Federal laws would outlaw age discrimination

Federal Attorney-General Daryl Williams plans to introduce laws specifically aimed at stamping out discrimination against older workers, and has released an information paper outlining his plans.

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Federal Attorney-General Daryl Williams plans to introduce laws specifically aimed at stamping out discrimination against older workers, and has released an information paper outlining his plans.

In the foreword to the paper, Williams said its release yesterday would help honour the Government's 2001 election commitment to outlaw age discrimination. He said the proposals had been developed after extensive business and community consultation.

Williams said the Government recognised the challenge of an ageing population, and the impact this would have on the workforce. He said age discrimination legislation would help correct negative stereotypes of both older and younger workers, and would directly contribute to encouraging mature age workforce participation.

While age discrimination laws are in force in all states and territories, age discrimination is not currently unlawful under Federal Government legislation, unlike discrimination on the basis of race, sex or disability.

Exemptions

The new laws would outlaw both direct discrimination, where a person is treated less favourably because of their age, and indirect discrimination, whereby people of a certain age are less likely to be able to meet what appears to be a neutral condition of employment, because of their age.

Exemptions will be allowed where the intention is to encourage 'positive discrimination', or to allow federal laws to comply with other legal requirements. Voluntary bodies and charitable events are also exempt, and the Government is seeking comments on whether there should be an exemption for religious organisations.

Exemptions will also apply where the discrimination is based on the inherent requirements of the job, and the Government has said it is still committed to allowing youth wages, which it saw as 'necessary to protect young people's competitive position in the labour market'.

The Government intends to allow discrimination also where this would comply with an award or agreement, but asks for advice on the extent of that exemption. It is also considering whether age discrimination proposals should be extended to unpaid work.

Comment on the paper is sought by 12 February.

Meanwhile, the Finance Sector Union has taken unfair dismissal proceedings to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, alleging that part of the 500 recent redundancies at the Commonwealth Bank were chosen on the basis of age. It said other redundancies were made because of the employees' workers compensation status. The bank said it acted according to its obligations under its enterprise agreement.

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