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Business case for employing older workers needs to change; Demand for part-time work increasing; and more

27 July 2017 7:14am

Stereotypical attributes of older workers 'don't matter' to employers

Employers are being advised to recruit older workers based on characteristics such as loyalty, reliability and experience, but this advocacy could be doing more harm than good, according to researchers.

In their report, Per Capita researchers Philip Taylor and Warwick Smith say this advice could be based on the "mistaken assumption" that loyalty, for example, is "actually valued by managers", when in fact managers might interpret those who are loyal as "set in their ways" and "sticky".

Research shows older workers are rated more highly on qualities that employers consider less important. "It has been found that employers perceived the advantages of older workers in terms of their soft qualities, whereas those of younger workers were primarily in terms of their hard qualities," they say.

Soft qualities included organisational commitment and social skills, and hard qualities, which were given more weight in productivity evaluations, included physical and mental capacity and a willingness to learn new technology, they note.

"This finding has potentially important implications for efforts to overcome age discrimination by employers. It indicates that not only are older workers being promoted in terms of qualities that employers are already more likely to ascribe to them, but also that such qualities are given a lower weighting in terms of employment decisions that take account of productivity. Such advocacy, firmly grounded in age stereotypes, may therefore risk entrenching labour market age barriers."

The researchers make a number of recommendations to improve advocacy for the ageing workforce, including establishing a National Ageing Workforce Strategy and accompanying targets, making changes to the Federal Government's Restart scheme, and establishing a national employer, trade union and industry peak body.

What's age got to do with it? Towards a new advocacy on ageing and work, Philip Taylor and Warwick Smith, July 2017

Nearly one in two candidates prefer part-time work

Demand for part-time work is increasing in Australia, with 42 per cent of candidates reporting this is their preference – one of the highest rates in the world, new ManpowerGroup Solutions research shows.

It says this demand reflects the growth in the number of older workers not yet ready to retire but wanting to move out of full-time work, as well as Gen Y's increasing desire for workplace flexibility.

The study of nearly 14,000 job seekers globally, including 748 from Australia, also found the number of Australian candidates who consider schedule flexibility a top-three motivator when making career decisions increased 21 per cent in one year.

Traditionally seen as a priority for women, flexibility is also a top-three motivator for 40 per cent of men, up 12 percentage points in the past year.

The research has important implications for employers, says ManpowerGroup Solutions Australia and New Zealand GM Jamie Butterworth. "There is now a growing pool of job seekers that prioritise part-time work, flexibility and meaningful employment over salary... It means part-time work will continue to rise and employers will need to consider this flexibility when creating the jobs of the future."

Work, for me: Understanding candidate demand for flexibility, ManpowerGroup Solutions, July 2017

Superannuation system "systematically biased" against women

Women's superannuation balances at retirement are 47 per cent lower than men's, putting many at risk of "a slow drift into poverty", according to a joint Per Capita and Australian Services Union report on the system's bias against women.

A 2016 ASU survey of more than 3,000 workers found more than 70 per cent of women have estimated balances under $150k, compared to 38 per cent of men, while 23 per cent of men have balances over $500k compared to less than four per cent of women, the report says.

The report's authors, David Hetherington and Warwick Smith propose interventions based on what they call "the accumulation pathway" – the superannuation balance a person should hold at any given age in order to expect a basic living standard (when combined with the age pension) in retirement.

The Federal Government, for example, could grant an additional super contribution to carers whose balance falls below the accumulation pathway; employers could offer a negotiated co-contribution of 1.5 per cent under awards and EBAs to staff who are more than five per cent below; and super funds could offer a fee discount for all account holders more than 10 per cent below, they say.

Other recommendations include employers offering employees financial literacy courses and taking steps to reduce the gender pay gap.

Not so super, for women, David Hetherington and Warwick Smith, July 2017

Rewarding ethical behaviour ineffective in promoting it: Study

An organisation's leaders have the greatest impact on whether its employees' conduct is ethical, while rewarding and measuring ethical conduct is generally ineffective, a survey has found.

The AHRI survey of 900 HR and accounting practitioners asked respondents to rank factors that had the greatest impact on ethical conduct in their organisation on a scale of 1–10. Leaders topped the list, followed by culture, then workplace practices and behaviours. Stated policies and rules and external influences were deemed the least influential.

The survey also found that when faced with an ethical issue, only 38 of respondents would turn to their manager or supervisor for advice, while a quarter would turn to a colleague or a mentor.

Ethics in business: Perspectives of accountants and HR practitioners, AHRI, July 2017

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