01:04 pm, Friday 10 February, 2012
Older workforce could open up employers to a range of potential compensation lawsuits. This is according to M+K Lawyers principal Andrew Douglas who said that the increase in the number of older workers in Australia is actually a legal liability.
“This is going to become much more of an issue over the next few years, as we have a population that is staying in the workforce beyond the ages they have done so in the past,” he says.
“Employers should be aware this can open them up to potential compensation claims.”
Because of this, businesses are being warned to make sure that their workers are consistently able to perform their physical duties even as they age. The Australian Bureau of Statistics have recently released figures showing that the number of older workers in the country has doubled over the past ten years, with over 1.93 million workers aged over 55. SmartCompany reports that in 2011, 73% of people between the age of 55 and 59 were working. Twenty five percent of people between the age of 65 and 69 were still working. Majority of these workers were working full-time.
Andrew Douglas said that while workers may have fitted a job description in the past, their ability to do the same tasks may have deteriorated as they age.
“The two things you do in creating a job description are giving a task assessment, giving a summary of the mental and physical tasks. And when the workforce ages, it becomes apparent in many industries the physical capacity to undertake those same tasks is reduced.”
Douglas also said that employers must see the importance of regular health checks.
“At the moment there is some opposition from the union which suggests regular health checks are private and inappropriate. But they are necessary to protect people from injuring themselves.”
“As this situation continues and you have these regular health checks coming, it may mean some people lose their jobs but it can also allow for an engineering of the workplace.”