Age-diverse workplaces

The Queensland public sector (the sector) is committed to the recruitment and retention of employees across all life stages.

Longevity is changing everything about life and work. As people live and work longer, creating age-diverse workplaces is a must.

Employees 55+ represent a valuable portion of the sector’s workforce and provide professional experience, expertise and corporate knowledge. Understanding their needs and how workplaces can support people to work into their 70s and 80s are important steps in creating age-diverse workplaces.

The Public Service Commission recently undertook research to better understand the needs of employees who are 55+.

1. Statistics

Within the sector (as at June 2019):

  • the average age of employees is 44.39
  • the average age for age retirement in the sector: 63.82
  • 68 per cent of our 55+ workforce cohort is female
  • there are 87 employees aged 80 and over, and 2125 employees aged 70 and over
  • 22.4 per cent could retire in the next 10 years.

In Queensland more generally:  

  • women live on average to 87, while men live to 85
  • our population is aging with people over 65 now accounting for 15.1 per cent of the population (up 3.8 per cent in the past 10 years).

2. Benefits of age-diverse workplaces

Age-diverse workplaces are inclusive of everyone, regardless of age. When managed effectively, this can bring many benefits to the individual, work team, and organisation including:

  • a cohesive work environment where team members actively communicate and collaborate
  • greater innovation, problem-solving and business continuity as a result of combined knowledge and experience across generations
  • increased energy and retention of corporate knowledge
  • greater reflection of our diverse community
  • improved health outcomes and personal wellbeing for those who stay in the workforce.

Best practices for age diverse workplaces

  • Maintain an open mind to age diversity
  • Foster an age diverse culture
  • Create opportunities for knowledge sharing – at any age
  • Promote better understanding of generational differences
  • Address the needs of employees across all life stages

Supporting mature-age workers

The Australian Human Rights Commission has developed good practice examples for the recruitment and retention of mature-age people in the workforce. This includes:

  • leadership commitment to inclusive and diverse workplaces
  • non-discriminatory recruitment and retention practices
  • building and maintain flexible work options
  • facilitating transitions and supporting workers to ‘re-skill’ and ‘up-skill’
  • providing targeted education and training in the workplace to build inclusive, respectful workplaces
  • building healthy workplaces – investing in health and wellbeing programs for workers.

3. Our people

Our employees tell us that one of the benefits of working with the Queensland Government is that their diversity is embraced. BeYou is one of our clear employee value propositions. Hear what makes an age-diverse workplace for our employees:

Dave Prendergast, Senior Claims Officer, Queensland Government Insurance Fund (QGIF)

Dave Prendergast: Senior Claims Officer | Queensland Government Insurance Fund (QGIF)

Outline your journey in the sector?

“I joined QGIF in 2006 to keep myself busy and maintain an income stream, after moving from New Zealand. In 2017, I started an initiative called the OWLs (Oldies working longer) group. It is for those who continue to work beyond the traditional ‘retirement age’ or time those who are approaching that ‘age’. We share ideas and thoughts about retirement, working longer and how that might best be achieved. It is giving people time to consider all the options around extending or finishing their working lives, and beyond. There are about 20 in the group and we meet quarterly.”

What do you enjoy most about your work?

“I am confident in my ability to perform work to a high standard. I joined the public sector here after an insurance career at senior management level. I enjoy applying my experience and expertise in a role that benefits Queensland. QGIF is the insurer for Queensland Government Entities. A beneficial offshoot of my work is the incidental daily exercise I get. I walk to the train and then walk to work. Each day I walk at least 1hr 20min. I enjoy the social aspect of work and know it is good for the mind as well. I work at a lower level than I have in the past and really enjoy the reduction in responsibility. I am happy to leave that to others but at the same time I do take my role seriously.

What would encourage you to stay on at work longer?

“I don’t work Thursdays and being able to work a four-day week has played a big part in encouraging me to stay on longer. I am also able to work from home occasionally, though I do prefer to go into work daily. Having flexible working hours is great and my employer is supportive of my early starts and finishes.”

What do you think is the most important factor for an age-diverse workplace?

“To have a good employer who has a supportive attitude for all workers to have a good work/life balance and where practical to try and fit that to individual needs.”

Kerri Biggins, Senior Policy Analyst, Insurance Commission, Queensland Treasury

Kerri Biggins: Senior Policy Analyst | Insurance Commission, Queensland Treasury

Outline your journey in the sector

“I have always had an interest in government. I joined the Queensland public sector 11 years ago to be closer to the functioning of government and to gain broader experiences in my work life. I have undertaken a number of roles in program, project management and policy areas across a number of departments in this time.”

What do you enjoy most about your work?

“I enjoy learning new things, embracing challenging and interesting work, and appreciate the confidence building that comes from it.”

What would encourage you to stay on at work longer?

“I value the many different types of flexible work that are available to me. Having the options to work from home some days, request part-time hours, access to early long service and unpaid leave enables me to achieve, and plan for, a better work-life balance as my life situation changes.”

What do you think is the most important factor for an age-diverse workplace?

“The most important factor for me is for assumptions about older workers to be disregarded. There is no use-by-date, and older workers are looking for opportunities the same as everyone else.”

Cate Dowling, Senior Human Resources Officer, Office of the Information Commissioner

Cate Dowling: Senior Human Resources Officer | Office of the Information Commissioner

Outline your journey in the sector

“I was attracted to the public service because I wanted a career opportunity and a work-life balance. I had previously worked part-time in private enterprise and now I was ready for a full-time role that would continue to give me a work life balance while caring for my high school age children. Since joining the Queensland public sector 13 years ago, I have worked across a number of agencies and have taken advantage of the flexible work options. At times I have worked a 9-day fortnight. I’m in my late fifties now, my partner has retired and I work in a part-time role. This enables me to spend more time with my partner and more time on my long-neglected leisure activities.”

What do you enjoy most about your work?

“I love the challenge of my role, problem solving and the social interactions I get on a daily basis. I’m always up for learning new things and regularly experiment with new technology to improve my work efficiency and quality.”

What would encourage you to stay longer?

“With my partner now retired, the opportunity to take a few longer holidays using recreation leave at half pay has been fabulous. Being able to take additional holidays and working part-time is essential for me to continue working into my sixties. Meaningful work and challenge is also important to me. I hope to partially retire in a few years and maybe do some volunteering and pick up some locum work within the Queensland Government.”

What do you think is the most important factor for an age-diverse workplace?

“We need to continue to consider individual needs for all employees regardless of age. I will continue to seek opportunities to learn and grow and I am encouraged that my age does not disadvantage me.”

4. Internal resources for employees

5. Internal resources for people managers

6. External resources

7. Legislative basis

The Queensland Government strives to be an employer of choice. To promote this, agencies and managers must ensure that they are modelling good corporate social responsibility, promoting age-diverse workplaces and upholding human rights.

To assist in achieving these aims, some legislative best practice is highlighted below. Further queries should be referred to your agency human resources contact, or the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.

Anti-Discrimination Act 1991

  • The Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person because of their age.
  • The prohibition on age-based discrimination covers all ages, which means that people may be discriminated against for being ‘too young’ or ‘too old’.
  • Age discrimination can be direct or indirect. Direct discrimination is treating a person less favourably because of their age than someone in similar circumstances of a different age. For example, a particular employee not being selected to go on a training course because their boss thinks they are ‘too close to retirement age’.

National employment standards (Fair Work Ombudsman)

  • The National Employment Standards (NES) are 10 minimum employment entitlements that must be provided to all employees.
  • Under the NES, workers that are 55 or older, and have worked with the same employer for at least 12 months are entitled to request flexible working arrangements.
  • Employers can only refuse a request of reasonable business grounds. If a request is refused, the written response must provide the reasons for refusal.

8. Sources: