Budget: Cash payments for older workers

Employers will be offered up to $10,000 to hire older workers under the Abbott Government’s Restart program announced in the Budget. But seniors advocates and experts say the rehashed scheme won’t be enough to tackle the complex barriers to mature age employment.


Employers will be offered up to $10,000 to hire older workers under the Abbott Government’s expanded Restart program announced in last night’s Budget 2014-15.

However, seniors advocates and experts say the rehashed scheme won’t be enough to tackle the broad and complex set of barriers to mature age employment.

COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates said while he welcomed the government’s attention to the issue, he said financial incentives alone fall short of what’s required to address the issues confronting older workers.

Ian Yates
Ian Yates

“It will have an impact but it is not a solution by itself and it is not a rationale for changing the pension age,” he told Australian Ageing Agenda.

He said employment incentives needed to be backed by improved training support for mature workers, workplace flexibility and a program to tackle age discrimination.

The initiative expands the former Labor government’s Job Bonus scheme that rewarded employers with $1,000 for hiring a worker over 50 for at least three months.

Under the Coalition Government’s program, which upped the incentive payment from its pre-election commitment of $3,250 to $10,000, the wage subsidy will be paid to employers over a period of two years.

From 1 July, eligible employers can expect to receive $3000 after 6 months of employing a full-time worker aged 50-plus who had been receiving income support (including the age or disability support pension) for at least six months. Businesses will then be paid a further $3,000 after the first year of employment, $2,000 at 18 months and a further $2,000 after two years.

Companies that employ a mature age worker on a part-time basis will also be eligible for a pro-rata subsidy as part of the scheme. The government estimates around 32, 000 mature workers will benefit from the subsidy annually.

Treasurer Joe Hockey said there needed to be a change in the culture of many businesses towards older workers. Employers can use these funds to assist employees to reskill and play a more active role in the workforce,” he said in his Budget speech.

To be eligible, employers will need to demonstrate that the job they are offering is sustainable and ongoing, and that they are not displacing existing workers with subsidised job seekers, he said.

Michael O'Neill
Michael O’Neill

However, National Seniors chief executive Michael O’Neill said with the pension age set to rise, the government must do more to encourage mature age workforce participation. “Put simply, we can’t raise the pension age without ensuring jobs exist for older Australians. Experience suggests cash bonuses don’t work in isolation,” he said.

He agreed a suite of initiatives that tackle community attitudes and remove legal barriers to employment were necessary.

Poor policy

Professor Philip Taylor from the School of Business and Economics at Monash University said there was little evidence locally or internationally to suggest financial incentive schemes targeting the over 50s worked.

He said they were administratively burdensome for employers and tended to help those already likely to be hired by businesses such as the younger old or the highly skilled. He cast doubt on whether the long-term unemployed or low skilled older workers would benefit from the scheme.

Professor Taylor said it also sent the wrong message to business and to the community about why employers should value older workers and negatively categorised older people in society as ‘difficult to employ.’

“For me, the primary problem is what messages they send to society about older people,” he told AAA.

He said financial incentives were not the most effective way to change employer attitudes and the money could be better spent on retraining and skills development for older workers, investments in lifelong learning and addressing ageism in wider society.

The Abbott Government has committed $304 million of new money to the initiative over four years, which it will evaluate in 2016.

At the same time as announcing its Restart program, the government has decided to scrap the Mature Age Workers Tax offset at a saving of $760 million over four years, which has drawn criticism from stakeholders.

Tags: budget 2014, joe-hockey, mature-age-participation, workforce,

6 thoughts on “Budget: Cash payments for older workers

  1. I am 67 and Centrelink will not define me as unemployed because I am to old to get Newstart. This is the catch 22. So they would prefer if i worked but they employer cannot get the $10,000 because Even though I am unemployed I am not categorised as unemployed. Never mind the fact that in NSW teh workers comp laws discriminate against older workers.

  2. Not for me I am 67 and cannot be classified as unemployed by centrelink because I am to old. !! Never mind the fact that in NSW I am discriminated against by workcover because of my age

  3. I fully agree that we need is to remove the barriers to employment of older Australians. The incentive may assist some people who are registered as unemployed. Sadly many highly skilled older people who continue to train and educate themselves, are discriminated against and do not even get an opportunity for an interview. One of the barriers in my view and from my experience is the attitude by HR staff and employment consultants who are much younger and have preconceived ideas about older people. I get really frustrated when I hear people stereotyping older people as being not so efficient, as lacking skills (such as computer, multimedia, social media) or for being afraid of change. This happens in all age groups and many older people embrace change and have lots of life experience and maturity to contribute. What is needed is a campaign to change the culture of HR staff and employment consultants who are often the gate keepers!!!

  4. This new system is a lame duck…. I am 62, and recently lost my job when my contract was finished up early. I was paid out Annual Leave, but this is set aside for my mortgage. Went along to Centrelink – and no, I am not entitled to any type of assistance due to my annual leave payout (around $9,000). I have to be practically broke before I can apply for any benefits. By then, I will be close to losing my house, if I haven’t all ready. So as I cannot get any benefit, any employer who wants to take me on, cannot claim for the incentive.
    I have applied for over 200 jobs in 3.5 months – have been to over 47 interviews – not a bad average. But – still cannot get a job. The minute they see me, it’s all over. And no – I am not an ugly ogre – I am extremely well groomed, well dressed, well spoken and well presented. Fit, active and a size 14. BUT I am my age – nothing can hide that. I have been asked the most inappropriate questions – ‘do you plan to retire in a few years?’. I submit my resume, and go from a phone call saying ‘you are exactly the person we are looking for’ to ‘you’re not what the company is looking for’. The COMPANY is looking for someone younger and prettier. My exceptional work ability is not even a consideration. I cannot get a job, cannot get any Centrelink assistance, and soon cannot pay my mortgage.
    I did start doing a casual cleaning job, paying the grand amount of $19 an hour, until I realised I was the one getting all the rotten, dirty, filthy jobs… Why? – because the younger ones don’t want to do it. They soon worked it out that if they did a rotten job, someone else would be asked to do it – and that was me. So while they emptied paper bins, I cleaned disgusting toilets. When I asked for a more equitable allocation of tasks, my hours were cut down and I was told that I ‘should be grateful I had a job’.
    The only problem with seniors being in the workforce is EMPLOYERS. It is NOT the senior workers who want to work. It is the employers who do not want them.

  5. I am in my early 50s and had been retrenched by employer due to “lack of work??” but soon after they employed a young person after me .However I was hardworking person and always updating myself with latest technology but my immediate boss never accepted me in the workplace from very first day and finding ways to morally discourage me.
    I did not complain as it may not reflect me a trouble maker.After retrenchment I just continued to look for new opportunity but found that if you are 50+ it is even harder to get interview call, even I have offered so much flexibility such as prepare to relocate,salary negotiation, travel etc.
    I can be better used in the industry then sitting home.I think there is some fundamentally wrong in the system.

  6. Ive worked all my life but I’m not prepared for super … they didn’t tell us we needed a million dollars to live in the furture I’m 61 raised 5 children worked in between them all my husband died at 54 people like me will be on the street ,but if I go out of the country and come back I might get a house for nothing, and by the way I’m still working and care for my 85 year old dad at home ,not game to leave my job that I’ve been at for 11 years because at my age I won’t get another . What a lucky country we live in our Anzacs and granfathers would be turning in there graves !!!!!!!

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