Start-ups are being urged to consider older workers as a viable talent pool, after the Federal Government announced it will offer a $1,000 bonus to employers who hire a worker aged 50 or over.
In a bid to break down employment barriers, the government will offer a $1,000 bonus to 10,000 employers who recruit and retain a worker aged 50 years or over for more than three months.
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The initiative, which kicks off on July 1, will cost $10 million over four years.
Treasurer Wayne Swan said older Australians have built up a lifetime of skills and experience, so if they want to stay in the workforce, “we should do everything we can to help that happen”.
“It’s all about giving older Australians more choice, and the opportunity for some extra financial security if they want to keep bringing home a paycheck in their later years,” Swan said.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average duration of unemployment for people aged 45-54 is 52 weeks. This increases to 75 weeks for those aged 55 years and over.
It’s hoped the bonus measure will make it easier for companies to support older jobseekers.
Martin Nally, founder of hranywhere, says start-ups should seriously consider the $1,000 bonus, particularly if they have a young workforce or operate in a “young” industry such as IT.
“There are some tech-savvy people with a little bit of grey hair. If you can entice them into the workforce and get paid for that, why not?” he says.
‘The boomerang initiative [also comes into play]. Maybe you’ve had people leave your business – for whatever reason – and maybe they’re the sort of people you’d have back.”
“The boomerang initiative is bringing people back into the workforce and it takes less time for them to be productive because they know their way around the workplace.”
Nally says it’s also worth bringing on older workers in a mentor or coaching capacity.
“Bringing people back to the workforce who have experience… is not such a bad idea. We don’t spend enough time valuing our experienced people,” he says.
According to Nally, older workers can also prove valuable in businesses that operate in cross-generational markets.
Meanwhile, Nareen Young, chief executive of Diversity Council Australia, says the barriers to workforce participation need to be removed.
“Inaccurate stereotypes about older workers being inflexible, hard to train or lacking in skills are just a few examples of what needs to be addressed,” Young said in a statement.
“In my experience, mature-age workers often represent an experienced, hard-working and productive talent pool, with low absenteeism and strong loyalty and work ethic.”
According to a DCA report titled Working for the Future, age discrimination is the most common type of workplace discrimination, more so than gender and care-giving responsibilities.
“There is much employers can do to address the problem,” Young said.
“For a start, they need to take a good look at recruitment, retention and development processes to ensure age discrimination is not occurring, even at an unconscious level.”
“Offering flexible ways of working, opportunities for learning and development, and an organisational culture inclusive and supportive of older employees are also important.”
“But, more than anything, it’s about changing the way we think about older people.”