Law vs age discrimination in employment sought

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Congress is being asked offline and online to pass a law banning age discrimination in workplaces.

Quezon City Councilor Lena Marie Juico has filed a resolution asking her colleagues in the city council to support a bill of Sen. Pia Cayetano seeking to penalize an employer, labor contractor or labor organization for discrimination against any person because of age.

Over 5,000 netizens are now backing the online petition just over a month after it was filed in platform Change.org.

The proposed Anti-Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 2013 is currently pending on second reading. Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Jinggoy Estrada have also filed similar bills.

Juico said capable and able individuals are denied employment benefits, if not employment opportunities, as prejudice against an aging workforce is evident in the qualifications posted in job notices and advertisements. 

“No person should be discriminated against due to age, sex, creed, political inclination or status in life,” she said. “The basis for employment should be the skills and qualifications necessary to perform the occupation.” 

Cayetano’s bill seeks to prohibit the publication of an employment notice specifying age preference; the requirement on an applicant to declare age and birth date; declining an employment application by reason of age; discrimination in terms of compensation, conditions or privileges because of age; and the forcible laying off, or even early retirement, of an employee because of age.

It also aims to ban labor contractors from refusing to refer for employment an individual because of age and for a labor group to deny membership or cause an employer to discriminate against a person because of his age.

Exceptions are cases where age is an occupational qualification reasonably necessary for the normal operation of a particular business, or where the intention of the employer is to observe the terms of a seniority system and employee retirement plan in his company.

The proposed fines for violators would range from P50,000 to P500,000 or imprisonment of up to two years.

The online petition started by the Blas Ople Policy Center said “returning OFWs experience age discrimination in their attempts to try to rejoin the mainstream workforce after being away for so long.”

Only 200 supporters were listed when The STAR reported the petition in May.

The petition said the bills of Cayetano and Rep. Edwin Olivarez against age discrimination in the Senate and the House of Representatives have yet to reach hearing stage.

“Regardless of their exposure to new and better technology or having a work ethic honed by the competitive environment overseas, many of these workers are discriminated against for not meeting the age-specific requirements of hiring companies,” read the petition.

“Meanwhile, unemployment and underemployment rates continue to rise, and at least 3,000-4,000 Filipinos leave the country daily to work abroad.”

The Blas Ople Policy Center said the burden of providing for the family has shifted to young workers because of the bias against hiring people above 30 years old.

“This deters the principle of inclusive growth, and leads more people to the path of migration because they can’t even get a foot in the door for job interviews not because they are not qualified, but because they are not of a certain age. We are talking here of jobs that should not be age-specific – from messengers to marketing agents and even managerial positions,” said the Blas Ople Policy Center.

It urged Congress to pass a law against age discrimination as over 30 countries have laws or policies against it.

“Australia even has an office created to monitor and stop age discrimination. Here in the Philippines, age discrimination is the 800-pound gorilla in the workplace that no one talks about but which thousands of job applicants and employees experience every day,” read the petition.

“Unless we address this problem, inclusive growth will be as elusive as ever.”

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