Over 50s incentive payment to aid small business

Small business stands to gain the most from taking up a new $10,000 incentive payment in the 2014 budget encouraging employers to hire over 50s.

With the retirement age set to increase to 70 by 2035, Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan told Dynamic Business she welcomed the government’s decision to expand the senior employment incentive payment. The measure was to provide $3,250 to business owners who kept on workers aged over 50 for more than six months.

Today’s budget is expected to expand the payment so that businesses that employ over-50s receive a $3000 payment followed by a second $3000 payment if they keep them employed for 12 months. An additional $2000 will be given to those who keep over 50s employed for 18 months and a final $2000 payment will be given to outfits that employ them for over two years.

Ms Ryan said the incentive payment was a “good start” in ensuring older Australians were not overly reliant on government benefits like the Newstart Allowance or Disability Support Pension.

“I think $10,000 is a reasonable amount. I would expect small businesses to be more likely to take up the incentive because their cash flow is much more tight than big or medium sized businesses,” she said.

“I would also, if it had been my scheme, I would have given some sort of priority to using the incentive payment for up-skilling and retraining the older worker because we do know that’s an issue in many cases.”

National Seniors chief executive Michael O’Neill said it was more important than ever to encourage leadership — both in government and corporate Australia — to try and change attitudes towards the hiring of older people.

“We would certainly say it’s more urgent than it’s ever been. Changing those attitudes will take decades, and we’ve got 20 years to turn it around by the time the shift to (a pension age of) 70 years occurs. We’ve only got less than a decade by the time 2023 comes and the shift is to 67,” he said.

Mr O’Neill welcomed the government’s decision to expand the senior employment incentive payment but warned that more needed to be done.

“It’s recognition that the Treasurer is taking on the concerns about mature age employment,” he told Dynamic Business.  “(But) the government can’t just hang its hat on that kind of initiative in isolation. It requires a range of measures, including dealing with the attitudinal challenges, ensuring that skills remain current and flexibility in the workplace.”

Mr O’Neill said even a five point increase in workforce participation from those aged 55 years or older would contribute tens of billions to the economy.

Policy and media adviser at the National Welfare Rights Network, Gerard Thomas, told Dynamic Business that it was important for government to introduce a range of support mechanisms to support older people and encourage them to gain work. He said more training programs would help to ensure that older people remained properly skilled to succeed in the modern day workforce.

“Simply raising the pension age is going to leave a whole lot more older people living in significant poverty until they reach whatever the pension is (set at),” he said. “Successive governments have done little to prevent pervasive age discrimination amongst employers.

“Unless you get small business to address the issues around workers comp and injuries and some of the stereotypes around older people and their productivity you are not going to get far.”