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Recruiting for the new grey army of ‘unretirees’


Recruiting for the new grey army of ‘unretirees’

CARROL BAKER speaks with seniors who have not only returned to the workforce, but are also enjoying new roles in different fields.

They march along in solidarity, some smiling with heads held high, while others forlornly drag their feet.

Aussie retirees are returning to the workforce in droves, and many feel as if they have no choice: their decision is linked to cost-of-living pressures.

Others go back to work because they’re missing social connection and feeling fulfilled or useful.

Research by National Seniors Australia reveals 16 per cent of age pensioners have returned to paid work since retiring, while another 20 per cent are considering it.

With staggering household bills, rental increases and petrol prices, returning to work has become a necessity, just to put food on the table.

Michelle Marquardt, ABS head of prices statistics, says that increases in living costs in the March 2024 quarter ranged from 0.7 per cent to 1.7 per cent.

From March 20, aged pension payments have increased by a paltry $19.60 per fortnight for singles, with combined payments for couples up by $29.40. The maximum single pension  rate is $1116.30, and couple combined is $1682.80. These figures include  maximum supplements.

AJ Financial Planning founder Alex Jamieson says many people are struggling to make ends meet – and he’s coined the term the ‘unrets’.

“While I have helped many Aussies retire and enjoy retirement, I am also being approached by a lot of Australians who have retired and are wondering how they go about unretiring,” he says.

“Sadly, if your retirement plan hasn’t been created taking into account inflationary pressures like the type we are experiencing today, then you don’t have a lot of options.

“You can try and cut back costs and live with it, or you can look to get back into the workforce to start bridging the financial gap.”

Kevin Davis, 63, retired from his teaching career a couple of years ago, but found himself back in the workforce when some of his investments took a hit because of COVID.

Now he’s working part-time as a carer through NDIS for his client John Beard, and he couldn’t be happier.

“My job as a teacher was very stressful at times. This is really enjoyable,” he says.

“No two days are the same. John and I might grab a bite to eat and head to Bunnings to buy gear to do projects around John’s house. Other times, we’ll just have a coffee and chat.”

For John, whose health took a turn a few years ago, having Kevin onboard has been a game changer.

“I’ve now got camaraderie and support,” he says.

“I’m a plumber by trade. Without Kevin, I couldn’t do projects – I’d just be staring at four walls and twiddling my thumbs and not getting out much.”

When you are considering returning to work, don’t feel as though your former career or job is your only option.

Not having basic digital skills, however, can be a barrier to some types of employment. So, sign on at your local community centre or library for free introductory computer courses. If you need to upskill in other areas, there are plenty of short courses through U3A that won’t break the bank.

If you do decide to get back into the saddle after retiring, your employer has to make 11 per cent super contributions on your behalf. This is set to  progressively increase to 12 per cent in 2025. It’s a way to boost the kitty, so when you decide you’ve had enough of work down the track, you’ll have more in your super fund.

If you do go back to work, the business you work for will benefit in more ways than one.

Age diversity is good for business. The Willing to Work report by the Australian Human Rights Commission states that having a diverse workforce can create innovative and dynamic workplaces.

Older workers bring with them a lifetime of learning. A workplace survey by Australian National University showed positive stereotypes of older workers include being less likely to leave the organisation, being reliable and  better at problem solving and dealing with customers.

Despite the fact that many seniors are successfully securing employment, there’s no denying that ageism does rear its ugly head.

The 2023 Employing and Retaining Older Workers Survey by the Australian HR Institute and the Australian Human Rights Commission found one-in-six organisations wouldn’t consider hiring a worker over 65, and only a quarter were open to it “to a large extent”.

The Age Discrimination Act came into force in 2004. It makes it unlawful to treat people unfairly based on their age in different areas of public life – for example, at work.

Two decades on, some might argue the Act is a bit of a toothless tiger. A potential employer can rule out an older worker by simply plucking another excuse out of thin air. If you feel that you are being discriminated against, you can try to raise the issue with the potential employer or make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Even though discrimination does exist, there are still plenty of opportunities for older workers to  secure employment.

Services Australia gives the example of business owner Jeff who operates a busy café in a country town. He draws on the local community to help during busy school holidays. A former employee, Sally, 68, returned to work recently to supplement her income.

“I wanted to work a few hours a week, mainly for social reasons, but the extra spending money didn’t go astray,” Sally says.

Jeff’s happy that Sally’s come back to the fold and says there are plenty of good reasons to hire an older worker.

“I’ve always found older workers are switched on and have an amazing work ethic and this has a multiplier effect on the younger workers,” he says. “Things like the Work Bonus are a great incentive to nudge those who may have retired into trying this type of thing.”

So, what is the government Work Bonus incentive? It was introduced to combat cost-of-living increases and means Aussies can now hang onto more of their pension if they return to work a few hours a week. The first $300 of your fortnightly income isn’t assessed as income, under the pension income test.

The good news is, Work Bonus it’s not a ‘use it or lose it’ scenario, either.

Any unused portion of the fortnightly $300 Work Bonus accumulates, up to a maximum amount of $11,800. If you are a new age pensioner, the government will even kick off your Work Bonus bank balance with a one-off $4000 at the start of the year.

Work Bonus was supposed to be a temporary measure, but to ease cost-of-living pressures, the government decided to make it permanent – for now.

If you are retired and always wanted a side hustle to put a little more cash in your pocket, Work Bonus is an opportunity to do just that. Tap into your creative side and get a market stall going or set up an Etsy shop. Become an Uber driver, or a pet sitter or walker. There are so many possibilities.

Returning to work can not only boost your cash flow, it’s also a way to connect with others.

Being in the workforce keeps you active, and offers opportunities to contribute to society. There’s also value in spending time with others.

Kevin is enjoying the social benefit: “Most of my peers are still working or just coming up to retirement, so there wasn’t a lot going on. Now, I’m helping my mate and finding it very rewarding.”

While people such as Kevin and Sally are returning to the workforce after retirement, some older Aussies never left.

Ian Brittain has newfound drive with his current role

Ian, 74, spent a lifetime in magazines and newspapers as an advertising rep.

“After my marriage went belly up, I had super, but it’s the old story: how much is really enough?” he asks.

He now works a 38-hour week driving a courtesy bus for Cricks.

“It keeps my brain active and puts a bit of money in the ‘skyrocket’,” he says.

“There’s no KPIs, no targets, no tap on the shoulder. It’s pretty cruisy.”

Ian says he doesn’t see himself stopping any time soon.

“I have a little chat to myself every December to ask, ‘Mate, how you going health-wise – are you okay?” he says.

So far, so good and Ian enjoys his job.

“I love return customers. We build rapport,” he says.

Returning to work after you retire impacts the aged pension and your superannuation. If you receive an aged pension and return to work, you need to let Centrelink know within 14 days.

If you aren’t sure about the pension income test and how Work Bonus will impact you, Centrelink has a financial services department where you can make an appointment and chat in person.


Rules around superannuation and returning to work

From age 60, you can:

  • access your superannuation
  • use your super to commence a transition to retirement pension
  • access between four and 10 per cent of your super, even if you are working full-time.

At age 65, you can access your super without any restrictions – and you don’t even have to be retired.

Job hubs: Visit and for  more information.


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