Cherie Howie

Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Too old, Winz tells mum, 42

Jobless Heather Georgeson, 42, with her family. Photo / Jason Dorday
Jobless Heather Georgeson, 42, with her family. Photo / Jason Dorday

They don't have to pay younger ones as much, work broker advises

Work And Income has told a 42-year-old mum she's too old for a job.

Heather Georgeson applied for a factory job through a Work and Income Manurewa work broker, but missed out because of her age, the broker has told her.

"I've just followed up the factory vacancy yesterday that I referred you to and unfortunately they wanted someone younger," the broker wrote in an email to Georgeson. "Sometimes they want the younger ones so they don't have to pay as much."

It is illegal for employers to discriminate on the grounds of age, and this weekend Work and Income head Debbie Power admitted Winz had got it wrong. "I'm concerned and disappointed about what has happened," she said.

"We don't condone discrimination on the basis of age in any circumstances."

Georgeson, who moved from Christchurch to Auckland after last year's earthquake, said she couldn't believe her age had cost her a job. "I'm only 42, not retirement age. And I was only expecting minimum wage."

She had previously worked for Cadbury, Air New Zealand and the University of Canterbury and considered herself a good worker, but had struggled to find work since moving to Auckland. The factory job was important to her, she said, as her husband, Kishore Menon, was on ACC and the family survived on $404 a week.

"It's so hard to get work here, so when I heard about this job I thought, 'Yes'. It meant a lot."

Work and Income is investigating Georgeson's case.

Power said the broker should have flagged the discrimination for investigation in the first instance, rather than condoned it. "Heather is clearly motivated and wants to work and we want to do everything we can to help her," Power said.

"In this case we understand a recruitment agency told our work broker there was a vacancy, but later said the employer wanted a younger person. Our work broker should not have simply relayed this information, but should've raised concerns with a senior staff member so the matter could have been looked into.

"I want to be clear that our staff work extremely hard to place people into jobs."

Manurewa Labour MP Louisa Wall said she would help Georgeson lay a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

- Herald on Sunday

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