A South Australian jobseeker has spoken of her "frustration" after being asked an inappropriate question — by a government department.
The woman, who spoke with news.com.au on the condition of anonymity, said she had recently applied for a finance position within the Government of South Australia's Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure.
She said all applicants were required to complete a document to provide personal information — including their date of birth.
However, in Australia it is unlawful for employers to ask job applicants discriminatory questions.
This includes a jobseeker's age, unless it is relevant to the job — for example, if an employee is required by law to be over 18 in order to serve alcohol in a bar.
While she has still not heard back from the department, the woman, who is 60, fears she might miss out on the job as a result of her age.
In fact, she said she had been in similar predicament last year when she was asked to provide her date of birth for a different, private sector job she had applied for — and missed out on.
"Recently, I applied for a finance position in the public sector because I have all the expertise they are looking for," she said.
"But there was a document to be completed giving the date of birth and when I checked with someone whether to leave it blank, I was recommended not to.
"I have a strong feeling that they will not bother to call me for an interview even. It's so frustrating when you can't get a suitable job after having all qualifications and experience."
The woman said she had contacted the Department of Premier and Cabinet and had been assured there was no age limit to jobs, as long as the candidate was capable of carrying out necessary tasks properly.
However, she was still concerned about potential discrimination.
A departmental spokesman said information was sought from applicants to verify their identity prior to making an offer of employment — but that a review of the job application process was underway.
"For all roles with the department we are required to confirm that the person to be offered employment has not recently accepted a separation package and [is] still subject to an employment exclusion period, and check details in relation to current or previous disciplinary processes," he said.
"In addition, for some roles the personal information assists in confirming a person's identification when checking their formal qualifications (including university qualifications and occupational certification and licensing).
"A review is being undertaken to ascertain if other streamlined methods of identification verification can be undertaken (for example as part of an online service) and whether it may be obtained at a later stage of the selection process (but prior to formally offering a contract of employment)."
But Shine Lawyers employment expert Christie Toy said while it may be necessary to check a date of birth for verification of identity later in the recruitment process, asking for someone's age at the start had the potential for discrimination before the process even began.
"If a date of birth is being asked in the initial intake it does have the potential for a discriminatory outcome," she said.
"It can be used as a mechanism for decision makers to cull job applicants — they may not even realise that they are discriminating.
"The department has noted that they need to verify certain matters before a job is being offered. This requirement will not automatically mean that the process they have set in place is not discriminatory."
Toy said the department's review was a welcome step.
"In this instance, there could be the potential to obtain this information at a later stage and through other means as an alternative to asking for a date of birth," she said.
"For example, they could ask for copies of the candidate's degree or qualifications. A candidate in an initial application could be asked to confirm if they have recently received a separation package.
"In many instances, an employer may wish to confirm an identity through a document such as a passport. This can be done after a job offer has been made. This eliminates the potential for discrimination. It would then be up to the employee to confirm their identity to the employer's satisfaction."
Toy said jobseekers who were asked discriminatory questions could seek legal advice and could potentially even take their case to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
In 2014, supermarket giant Woolworths was ordered to pay jobseeker Steven Willmott almost A$5,000 ($5,261) after questions asked during his job application — including his gender and date of birth — were found to have broken Australian anti-discrimination laws.