“Keep Calm and Carry On” or is it “Grin and Bear It”?
Delayed retirement is a trend and has been for some time. The employment rates of men aged 65 to 69 and women from 60 to 64 have just about doubled since 2000. The increased age for receiving the OAS is being phased in here in Canada as it is in Australia, Germany, and Britain among others. This is just one factor influencing the average age of retirement, which had fallen for some time, but is now heading upward again.
Related article: 5 retirement trends
In 2006, the labour force ratio of workers to dependents dipped below the one to one ratio. In 2001 it was 1 to 1.6 but by 2006 it was 1 to .96, and by 2011, it was 1 to .84! We have a declining birth rate but a burgeoning older population as the oldest of the Boomers head into their mid 60’s. This means both an older and a shrinking workforce. With no mandatory retirement, many are opting to stay employed.
Some employers are happy with this while others are not. York Region has a guide for employers called Beyond the Boomers: An Employer’s Guide to the Labour Force that sets out a detailed look at demographics, age discrimination, flexibility in the workplace, and recruiting and retaining older workers. It is an excellent resource for those employers wanting to keep their employees engaged or hire more older workers.
Other employers are looking for ways to get older workers out the door without age discrimination law suits. More and more lawyers are brushing up their case law because without that mandatory retirement, employers are not sure how to get rid of older workers without ending up in court.
What do older workers want?
For those employers who want to retain or recruit older workers, there are common items on the wish lists of those workers. Flexibility in tasks and time is near the top of that list. They may want a project based style of work or a fixed contract or work contract to contract. They may want part time or seasonal employment. Other options that could fit that bill could be telecommuting, job sharing, flextime, compressed work weeks, or a phased retirement plan. Scandinavian countries have experimented with phased retirement plans for decades. Other possibilities are formal leaves, care giving leaves, sabbaticals and reentry options.
Related article: Tips to working in retirement
Other items on that list could be involvement in mentoring or training programs as mentors/trainers or participants, opportunities for meaningful work and for upgrading skills, positive relationships at work, appreciation for their loyalty and productivity, new challenges, and, of course, respect. As HR considers how to retain, recruit, and maintain stability and consistency, new policies and practices that account for an aging workforce and their desire to be engaged and productive need to come to the fore.
It's Deja Vu all over again
D. Banda of the American Association of Retired persons claims, “Older workers are changing the workplace to an extent women did 30 years ago when they started entering the force in greater numbers.” Now the arguments against both women and immigrants ‘stealing jobs’ is being leveled at Boomers who choose to stay working. Lisa Taylor of the Challenge Factory calls this the lump of labour fallacy as if the labour force was a fixed size. Remind those who forward this view about the labour force to dependent ratio. We continue to need tax payers more than dependents.
Lots of outdated ways of thinking and acting are still out there. Susan Eng, VP for advocacy for CARP, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, says many cases of age discrimination happen and many go unreported. “Eliminating mandatory retirement provisions only removed legislated age discrimination. It did not remove discriminatory attitudes and practices in the workplace.” Lisa Taylor of the Challenge Factory thinks that successful businesses will figure out they need this workforce that is “talented and committed and flexible and ready to continue”.
Related article: Common misconceptions about retirement
I have heard many experiences from people who take my courses of being forced out of their positions one way or another. It is one of the worst ways to go into retirement unprepared, resentful, hurt, or angry or all of these. No exit interview, no warning, and no respect for past contributions and an escort out of the building is no way to end a career.
I would appreciate hearing about others’ experiences or plans.