When it comes to work, we are seeing some significant inequities resulting from COVID-19. While job losses have affected all age groups, older workers and younger workers have been disproportionately affected. Differential effects on men and women have been identified with women suffering more job losses than men because more of them are in casual work.
This is a time when older workers need to be particularly vigilant about discrimination according to Professor Alyssa Blackman of Melbourne University. She suggests there is potential for older employees to lose a job because of health and safety concerns. She argues that it is incumbent on employers to be attuned to any potential inequities in the way they treat employees.
Older workers who already face discrimination in the workplace may find themselves forced into early retirement as we emerge from the pandemic. Workers aged 45+ found it more even more difficult than normal to find work after the GFC and we are likely to see a repeat of this. For this reason, policy advisors like the McKell Institute, have urged governments to encourage employers to retain older workers because if they are forced to access superannuation earlier than planned, their long-term financial health could be compromised.
It is, however, possibly even more important to focus on supporting the mental health of older workers at the moment. Levels of stress and anxiety for many workers are at an all-time high. Given the disproportionate effects on women, it is perhaps not surprising that they are reporting greater levels of stress and anxiety than men, but being out of work is a stressful experience regardless of gender. To prevent stress from becoming a tipping point which makes it difficult to make good decisions, Beyond Blue suggests 3 simple steps: physical exercise to reduce panicky feelings, taking time to just breathe, even if it’s only to take three deep breaths and finally, find ways to ground yourself so you can just be in the current moment using mindfulness techniques.
For people who need to be proactive, it may be a good time to take stock. At times of crisis, we often think about what we really want to do for the rest of our working lives. Job loss can spark the decision to make a change: to start the business you’ve always thought about or move into a more meaningful career. It’s not easy to make a change like this and it’s critical to do your homework. Start by getting creative about what you want to do and get yourself ‘financially fit’. There is support out there. Indeed, War on Wasted Talent was established for that very purpose: to help 45+ experienced professionals looking to start a business or make a career change. If you haven’t done so recently, check out the website and consider tuning into some of our Meetups or Workshops. Connecting with others, even online, can be a great place to start.
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