Ageing workforce at risk of injury

6th May 2014

Any discussion about working life ought to include workplace injury and its consequences, the Australian Lawyers Alliance said today.

Last week, the Commission of Audit proposed increasing the age of access to the aged pension to 70 years, and at the same time proposed that age of access to superannuation  be delayed to 62 years of age.

“With expectations of people working longer, there must be an acknowledgment that the bodies of older workers, especially in manual labour, are going to break down more frequently,” said Geraldine Collins, National President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

“The risk of injury for older workers, particularly in manual labour, is going to rise.  For many, the human body only has so much hard physical labour in it,” said Ms Collins.

“In the not too far off future, sixty year olds may be eking out a miserable existence through to age seventy on a pitiful Newstart allowance or an equally parsimonious workers compensation payment.”

“If the government wants to extend the retirement age, then there are two critical parts of the discussion that are being omitted

• Protecting older workers whose bodies break down and put them out of manual work; and
• Ensuring that people injured in the workplace  are not  kept on a subsistence wage, unable to access superannuation when they are clearly never going to return to work.”

“The extension of the retirement age is occurring at the same time as many states are significantly winding back the rights and entitlements within their compensation schemes.”

“The Federal government has also opened access to the Comcare system, which provides a pittance in compensation to people whose working lives are destroyed via workplace injury.  A system designed for retrainable white collar workers will be applied to hard-to-retain injured manual workers.”

“Those who are discarded from work as too old and those discarded because their workplace injury renders them unfit for work will become an extended class of non-working poor.”

“Sloganeering mantras such as ‘getting the injured back to work’ are fanciful nonsense for the 50 year old steel worker with a disc prolapse in the back.”

“There needs to be further effort to address the issue of an aging workforce, increased risk of injury and meaningful compensation for those who lose their health because of their employment.”

Tags: Compensation Workers' rights Workers compensation