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Home | Got a Minute | Discrimination | No. 42 – I’ve been made redundant in favour of junior staff. Am I too old to work?

No. 42 – I’ve been made redundant in favour of junior staff. Am I too old to work?

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15 December 2021

I am a male solicitor aged over 60 and in good health who was “re-engineered” out of a position because I was too senior. My position was made redundant (even though I have a lot of experience) to be done by more junior lawyers. I like helping people and solving problems, but I’m now wondering whether I am too old for the workforce and should give up looking for a legal position?

I have no doubt you have a wealth of experience to offer the right firm. Your question of whether you are too old is, unfortunately, in the eye of the employer and what we know from the latest Australian Human Rights Commission report, “What’s age got to do with it”, is that ageism exists. It’s not fair but it’s where we find ourselves and unfortunately 63 per cent of people surveyed had experienced ageism in the last five years.

Something you might like to consider is investigating if your old firm or a new one would engage you on a consulting basis. Your many years of legal experience is valuable and while your former employer has decided they don’t need you as a permanent employee, they may be interested hiring you as a consultant which gives them (and you) more flexibility. I know it’s probably not ideal and this kind of arrangement may feel unfamiliar after a long career in traditional employment. You can also use your existing network of lawyers and industry contacts to see if you can assist them directly. I’m confident your knowledge will be valued and so now is a great time to think a little laterally about where it can be best used. Good luck!

As a female African immigrant (and usually the only woman in the room), when presented with an opportunity I feel like I don’t deserve it or that I am just a diversity hire. For example, I’ve been working hard this year to re-train and change careers but sometimes I find it hard to accept help because I don’t want to feel like I haven’t earned my stripes. Have you ever experienced this obstacle and if so, how did you get out of your own way?

Let me say first and foremost, as an immigrant woman of African heritage in a male-dominated environment you have well and truly “earned your stripes”. The obstacles that would have been placed in your way to simply be in the room must have been immense. You most certainly deserve everything that comes your way.

In regard to feeling like a “diversity hire”, that is a bitter pill many women feel and in no thanks to others who use that term as a weapon. I have felt that way in my career and I know many other women who have as well. But even when thinking that, I still accept opportunities with both hands and go into them with even greater determination to do the very best so that it opens up yet more.

So please say yes to opportunities as they come along. You deserve them. Trust in the person offering them that you have earned them. Can I also encourage you to ask for and accept help when it comes along? You have worked hard to get where you are, and others will undoubtedly want to help you to get even further. Trust in them too.

I’ve been working from home since March 2020 and believe that I have been more productive working in a peaceful environment without politics and bullying. I’ve had no contact from my managers for the last 20 months keeping me updated with new employees and also no answers to requests that I have made to help the team out further. Do I have a good case to stay working from home? I don’t want to go back to being constantly anxious.

It sounds like your managers might not even notice whether you went back into the office or not! It’s extraordinary that they have had limited contact with you during COVID-19. You’ve shown your employer you can be productive at home, and you have had no feedback to suggest otherwise. I’d have thought you would be in a strong position to suggest that this way of working works for the company and for you.

I would arrange to have a meeting with your manager and explain how the last 20 months have worked for you and how productive you have been. You might also want to tell them how much more you’re enjoying working this way. It sounds like you need some certainty that you can continue with this arrangement so ask what you need to do to confirm you can keep it going indefinitely.

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