Ontario to scrap mandatory retirement

Citing the goal of eliminating discrimination, the Ontario government is scrapping mandatory retirement and extending human rights protection for workers older than 65.

The move would put Ontario alongside Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the three territories.

Currently, the Ontario Human Rights Code does not extend protection from age-discrimination to those 65 or older, so there is no recourse under the code for employees who are forced out the door by employers when they reach age 65.

But two years ago a report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission said mandatory retirement is discriminatory. In recommending the law be reviewed, the report cited such reasons as basic fairness, an aging population that stays active and healthy longer and the labour shortages facing certain sectors.

But what are the repercussions of these legislative changes? Dominic Scaffidi, senior manager of human resources at the high-tech firm Nortel, said he agrees with the changes on the principle of equal treatment, and hopes it will help “alleviate some of the pressure” posed by the aging population.

But he has some concerns about what the lack of such policies will mean for human resource management.

“If (employment) doesn’t come to an end at 65 then when does it come to an end? Does it have to get so bad in terms of performance, for example?” wondered Scaffidi.

The possibility that employers might become more intolerant of a drop in work quality among workers still years away from retirement is one of the reasons many unions oppose the removal of mandatory retirement policies.

Louis Erlichman, research director at the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers, said employers might “start doing stringent tests for employees even when they’re 50. They might feel, ‘Well, if someone’s performance is going to drop off, we’d better get a record of it, because if we don’t, he or she might hang in indefinitely.’ It could possibly lead to an employer forcing someone out earlier.”

Erlichman added that it’s a red herring to talk about scrapping mandatory retirement in order to give people the freedom of choice.

“The real freedom of choice is there when you have a retirement income. Only then do you have a choice.”

While noting that unions aren’t unanimous in endorsing mandatory retirement, he said many do worry that such a move would lead to a further erosion of pension regimes. “We may see the eligible age for pension pushed back from 65 to 70.”

Source: Canadian HR Reporter

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