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ALRC sets out plan to break down age barriers

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The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has identified insurance availability as a major barrier to older people’s ability to work.

The Federal Government wants people to stay in employment longer to help cover the cost of an ageing population.

In its report, Access All Ages – Older Workers and Commonwealth Laws, the ALRC notes the lack of availability of income protection, travel and volunteer insurance.

It also notes insurers’ concern about restrictions on using age as an underwriting factor.

While the report does not address the issue – “a much wider question than the focus of the inquiry” – it makes a series of other recommendations, saying the Insurance Reform Advisory Group, which was set up by the Federal Government two years ago, should consider options for a central information source to help older people find appropriate products.

Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten has welcomed the report “because it doesn’t just provide an insight into the challenges older people face in gaining employment, but it gives us a genuine road map of what to do about it”.

The report says the Government and insurers should “increase transparency” by negotiating an agreement requiring the publication of data used to put together products based on age.

The commission also calls for a review of insurance exceptions to anti-discrimination legislation, with guidance on how the exceptions apply.

Finally, the ALRC recommends the General Insurance Code of Practice and the Financial Services Council Code of Ethics should be altered to include clauses encouraging consideration of older people.

Stakeholders consulted by the commission include the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA), IAG and Suncorp.

ICA says it will review the recommendations and work with the advisory group to help consumers make “informed decisions”.

A council spokesman told a “wide range of cover” is already available for different age groups. This year ICA will also launch a national financial literacy campaign.