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Managing age

It is against the law to treat staff unfairly because of their age. This applies to any age.

Discrimination against young or old staff may include:

  • dismissal or demotion
  • denying or limiting access to promotion, transfer, bonus pay, training or any other benefits
  • unreasonable workplace policies, practices and procedures.

You are also liable if staff discriminate against each other because of age and you may be held responsible.

Junior staff

You can advertise for junior staff and pay junior wages if they are part of an award.

Reducing hours or conditions because they have reached a certain age could be unlawful discrimination.


David managed a supermarket and had employed Lisa since she was 15 years old. He used to give her 16 hours work a week, but now she was in her mid twenties he reduced her hours and advertised for new juniors. David told her that he had too many seniors and they were expensive to employ. Lisa could claim she was discriminated against because of her age.

Senior staff

You should not assume that people over 45 years are preparing to retire and not interested in training or promotion.

Consider the experience and skills that older staff can bring to your business, rather than assume what they can and can't do. Mature age staff on average stay longer after training than younger staff, take less sick leave, have fewer accidents and positively influence younger staff.

An ageing population and low birth rate means that Australia needs to keep people in the workforce for longer.

There are incentives to employ older staff, such as the Mature Aged Worker Incentive Scheme.

You can encourage your older staff to stay at work longer by offering phased retirement and flexible working conditions.

Be aware that South Australian workers' compensation laws do not fully cover workers beyond retirement age. For more information, visit WorkCover.

Lump sum redundancy payments are also not generally made for people beyond the age of 65.

Related information
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