Grey areas in end of mandatory retirement (Legal view)

Compliance crucial to avoid wrongful dismissal complaints
By Kirsten Hume
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/07/2009

British Columbia has become the latest province to abolish mandatory retirement. Changes to the province’s Human Rights Code came into force on Jan. 1, 2008.

It is a common misperception — mostly outside the HR community — that there used to be a law that forced all employees to retire at 65. However, except for the Public Service Act, this was not the case in B.C. “Mandatory retirement” refers to an employment policy or contractual term that requires an employee to cease working at a specified age — usually 65.

Previously, the code prohibited discrimination based on age but defined age as “19 years or more and less than 65 years.” This allowed employers to force retirement at or after age 65. The new act amended the definition of age to “19 years or more,” extending protection to older workers and abolishing mandatory retirement. The act also repealed section 23 of the Public Service Act, which required public servants to retire at 65.