Like many in the hospitality business, Barry Iddles was struggling to find staff to fill shifts at his restaurant 360Q in Queenscliff when he was struck by inspiration.
The 67-year-old decided to put the call out to “oldies”, adding an invitation to retirees to come and work at his waterfront venue on the back of his winter postcards.
“We sent out 42,000,” he said.
“I put, ‘We’re recruiting – juniors, come and learn the skills of hospitality. Millennials, come and show us what you can do. And seniors and retirees, come back to the workforce for one or two shifts per week.’
“I sent it out by mail and off we went. We had a great response.”
He stressed that potential employees didn’t need a resume or hospitality experience and could just come in for a chat.
Now, Iddles has 12 staff working for him aged over 50, including former nurses and healthcare workers, a mechanic, small business owner and florist.
“We’ve got two 74-year-olds, a 70-year-old, and then we’ve got [people aged] 57, 60, 64, 66 and 67,” Mr Iddles said.
“There is a labour shortage and a labour crisis, [but] I don’t have one. I have five too many staff at the moment. And I could actually open another venue to keep them all gainfully employed.”
Iddles said most of his older staff at the 150-seat restaurant, which also includes outdoor dining and an upstairs function venue, work during functions and that there has been a major benefit to both older and junior workers working alongside each other.
“It’s amazing, the interaction is absolutely incredible,” he said.
“It’s good for their life skills – the oldest have got a great work ethic.”
Since his story was shared by the ABC on Tuesday, Iddles said his phone has been ringing non-stop and his hiring practice went viral.
“Everyone wants to talk about hiring old people,” he said.
One of Iddles’ employees, 67-year-old Kenton Savage, told the ABC he wanted to retire after selling his distribution business – but his plans went awry when it went bankrupt during the pandemic.
Without super and amidst rising living costs, Savage and his wife had no choice but to find jobs.
“The pension just didn’t pay enough. So I looked around for a job and Barry was hiring,” he said.
“I think it just keeps me fit and healthy and happy. Being able to get out and about, it’s really been good for me,” he said.
73-year-old Susan Borton, another employee, said she applied to boost her confidence and contribute.
“Covid made a lot of people depressed,” she said.
“And I know amongst the older ones, we’re all saying we’re actually finding it quite difficult to get out and about again. [Working] makes me feel better. And I love putting in, I love contributing.”
The Council for Older Australians chief executive Ian Yates praised Iddles for his hiring practice.
“Many older people will have experienced a lot of knock backs and not being taken seriously as prospective employees,” he told the ABC.
“The labour market is so tight, that employers are being forced to look at channels and groups that they wouldn’t normally look at, including older Australians.”
Speaking to news.com.au, Iddles said others should adopt his policy too, and that it applies to both young and old.
“Age discrimination can be quite bad, at both ends of the spectrum,” he said.
“If I’ve got a 15-year-old coming for a job I’ll give them a job immediately. Too many people go, you’ve got no experience. But they actually want to work.
“It’s a great mix to have [employees ranging] from 15 to 75.”
This article first appeared on OverSixty.