Column: Considerations For Ageing Workforce

April 11, 2018 | 13 Comments

[Opinion column written by BTUC President Senator Jason Hayward]

In the Bermuda Trade Union Congress [BTUC]’s 2017 Workers’ Agenda, the Congress highlighted the need for the Government to examine age discrimination in the workplace. Given our country’s ageing population, the Congress recognises that the issue of age discrimination affects many people in Bermuda.

The 2016 Census of Population and Housing Preliminary Report re-confirmed that Bermuda continues to have an ageing population. The report revealed that approximatley 49 percent of the population is over the age of 45, an increase from the 44 percent recorded in 2010.

Additionally, the population aged 65 and over grew by 23 percent between 2010 and 2016. As Bermuda’s workforce ages, it is imperative that the country as a whole gives greater consideration to how older employees are being treated within the workplace.

Given the continuing shift in Bermuda’s demographics, the BTUC believes that it is time for Bermuda to move past the mindset that employees over the age of 65 have somehow outlived their purpose in the workplace.

Many employees not only have the ability to function effectively well past their 65th birthday, they also wish to continue to work. Allowing the employee the right to work beyond the age of 65 can have a positive effect on:

  • the public social insurance scheme and pensions
  • an employee’s health and life expectancy
  • retirement planning
  • financial assistance

Contrary to what most people believe, there is no mandatory retirement age in Bermuda. Despite there being no legislation that requires employees to retire at 65 years of age, the generally accepted practice across the Island is to retire employees at the age of 65.

Most persons agree to retire at the age of 65 when they sign their contracts of employment. As a result, therefore, many employees who would like to remain in the workplace are forced to retire. In Bermuda, this is problematic as many cannot afford to retire and are often financially supporting other family members.

Being forced to retire is not the only issue that affects older workers in the workforce. Deborah Hudson, lawyer at Turnpenney Milne LLP and presenter for Queen’s University Industrial Relations Centre, identified in her paper: “The Golden Years: The Aging Workforce and Human Rights Matters”, other areas in which employees are discriminated based on age including:

  • a worthy employee passed over for a promotion opportunity based on false assumptions about their age, capabilities and/or timing of their retirement
  • an employee repeatedly asked when he or she is going to retire
  • an employee stereotyped and asked if he or she ‘has the energy’ to do a particular task or role
  • an employee not provided equal growth or training opportunities
  • an employee not provided equal raises or bonus opportunities based on age-related assumptions
  • an employee with age-related health issues that are not accommodated the same way as other health issues experienced by younger employees
  • an employee terminated on the basis of age and/or for reasons linked to age [disability-related leave or false assumptions on the impact of age on work performance]

The BTUC believes that the first step to addressing age discrimination in Bermuda is to amend the Human Rights Act 1981. This legislation already establishes a general framework for equal treatment in employment opportunities and continued employment.

The Act currently protects persons from age discrimination on matters related to housing and the provision of goods, facilities and services. It, however, provides no protection against age discrimination in the workplace. Consideration must also be given to requiring employers to reasonably accommodate age-related disabilities as they are currently required do so with other disabilities.

The BTUC recognises that eradicating age discrimination requires a multi-pronged approach that involves cross-sectional collaboration with key stakeholders, and as such, it encourages a community-wide discussion on this far-reaching issue.

- Jason Hayward

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Comments (13)

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  1. Politricks says:

    By keeping older people in the workforce longer, opportunities for the younger generation trying to enter into the labor market are diminished. And its not like new jobs are being created to facilitate both age groups.

    Didn’t the BTUC just have a public debate on the high levels of youth unemployment?

  2. Hope says:

    Could they not allow the retirement age of 65 to be raised, on a voluntary basis by the employee only? For example, the employee is allowed to retire at 65 with full benefits but has the option to continue to say 70, retiring at that point also with full benefits. However as it is voluntary on the employee only, the organisation cannot force an employee to retire at 65.

  3. Cow Polly says:

    If Government are serious at preventing age discrimination they should remove the age question on their statistical Application for Employment Form that they require employers/potential employees to complete during interviews.
    This is the only place where employers can determine an applicant’s age prior to employing them as it is no longer a requirement on resumes and job application forms.

  4. Joe Bloggs says:

    “The BTUC believes that the first step to addressing age discrimination in Bermuda is to amend the Human Rights Act 1981″

    What happens if the aging person is homosexual? He or she is protected on the ground of age but not on the ground of sexual orientation? Can a homosexual older person still be lawfully discriminated against?

    • Dijon says:

      Do not complicate the already complex situation. One issue at a time.

    • Infidelguy says:

      It already covers discrimination based on sexual orientation. Remember they had trouble adding the “2 words and a comma”?

  5. Bermyman says:

    And the PLP/BIU/BTUC/People’s Campaign -all were arguing that there were not enough jobs for Bermuda’s qualified youth?

    We need an increase in the younger, healthier and more qualified working population. If we do not, then there will not be enough tax/premium payers to support the underfunding of pensions and the healthcare system, not to mention the unsustainable behemoth of a Unionized Civil Service and all of their top shelf benefit packages incl the abuses of overtime and sick pay.

    The Unions will eventually economically sink this country and continue to raise the amount of tax needed to support them.

    • PANGAEA says:

      68 year ago the labor unions brought the people of United Kingdom to their knees.

  6. Maria Jacobs says:

    Who wants to work to 65 let alone 70!!!

  7. Maria Jacobs says:

    Optional retirement should be from 30 years employment or 55 years of age. Mandatory at age 70. That covers everyone that would like to retire or wishes to work longer.

  8. spider says:

    Government employees must retire at 65 that’s a good starting point to make changes. Plus it extends the amount of time employees contribute to the pension fund and reduces pension fund payments.

  9. Joe Bloggs says:

    Ok, how about this. I am entitled to a full Government pension when I retire. As we have known for over 15 years, the Government does not have the money to pay for all the pensions. That includes everyone who pays Social Insurance, every civil servant, every police officer, fireman and prison officer.

    The pension deficit is somewhere in the $3 to 5 Billion range as i recall.

    Will I get my pension or will I be told to go away because I am too old and a drain on society?

  10. PANGAEA says:

    You come into this world naked, you will leave it the same way, wondering if you made a difference.

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