Complaints of age-based discrimination in the Victorian workforce have more than doubled in the past year.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission logged 107 complaints of age discrimination in its 2009-10 annual report, up from 50 in 2008-09.

The 114% rise in complaints made by older workers in 2009-10 is in sharp contrast to the 10% increase the Commission reported in 2008-09.

Commissioner Dr Helen Szoke said in the report that the rise in complaints could be because older people were increasingly aware of their rights at work. She has since said that it is difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons for the rise, given there are a range of factors at play.

In a speech in August, Dr Szoke said that Victoria was leading the way in human rights-based policy, especially with regard to older people.

Discrimination against older employees is set to become a major issue as the Australian workforce ages. Earlier this month the Australian Human Rights Commission released a paper calling for a “social movement” to expose and eradicate age-based discrimination in the workplace.

According to the report, the commission received 2437 complaints, an increase of 18% on the previous year. Employment was the largest “area”, accounting for 1821 complaints, or 75% of the total. This was an increase of 12.5% on 2008-09.

In mid-2011 a dedicated Age Discrimination Commissioner will be appointed and the new Victorian Equal Opportunity Act will come into effect. Dr Szoke said that the legislation would better enable the Commission to work with employers to prevent discrimination in the workplace.

Discrimination against someone on the basis of age is illegal.

Peter Fray

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