Thursday, March 31, 2005

Supreme Court Expands ADEA Rights

In an opinion authored by Justice Stevens, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) authorizes recovery in disparate-impact cases comparable to that in cases involving race, color, religion, sex, or national origin discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. However, unlike Title VII, the ADEA significantly narrows its coverage by permitting any “otherwise prohibited” action “where the differentiation is based on reasonable factors other than age”. In the case before the court, the plaintiffs did little more than point out that the pay plan at issue was relatively less generous to older workers than to younger ones. Thus, they did not identify any specific test, requirement, or practice within the pay plan that had an adverse impact on older workers.

Source: Smith v. City of Jackson Supreme Court (March 30, 2005)

Monday, March 28, 2005

EBRI Reports Decreasing Availabiliy of Retiree Health Insurance

According to a new Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) Issue Brief on “The Impact of the Erosion of Retiree Health Benefits on Workers and Retirees”, both early retirees and those over age 65 experienced a substantial drop in employer-based retiree coverage from 1997 to 2002, the last year for which numbers are available. During that five-year period, EBRI reports that the percentage of private employers that offered health benefits to early retirees (those under 65) fell to 13% from 22%, the percentage of private employers that offered retiree health benefits to Medicare-eligible retirees (65 and older) dropped to 13% from 20%.
The EBRI study notes that signs of a shift in worker expectations are apparent already. In 1997, just over 50 percent of wage and salary workers ages 45–64 expected to receive health benefits in retirement; by 2002, that had declined to 47 percent.
Source: News Release Employee Benefit Research Institute (March 22, 2005)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Older Workers Advice: Fight Age Stereotypes

Writing for the Gannett News Service, Andrea Kay says that not a day goes by "that I get a letter from someone asking, 'What can a 50-ish worker do to get a job? Am I too old?'" She tells workers in their 40's and 50's that you "have been weakened by your fear that employers think you're washed up. You have been brought to your knees by conventional wisdom that others buy into that says technology belongs to the young and older workers hate change and can't adapt. And I've had it up to here." Her advice is to fight back:
Fight back the urge to let stereotypes pervade employers' thinking. Educate them about their shortsightedness. But the fight begins with you and your own mind. You must recognize how easily you fall into the trap of worrying that no one will want you because you're no longer a young whippersnapper.
Source: "Don't give up fight over age stereotypes" The Desert Sun (March 21, 2005)

Monday, March 14, 2005

Age Discrimination a Big Factor in Top Income Brackets

With the Baby Boom generation entering its 60s this year, the American workforce is aging. By the year 2010, over half the country’s workers will be over 40. For those workers at the top of the pay scale, age discrimination has become a large concern. According to a survey conducted by TheLadders.com, 69% of executives said they’ve been the victims of age discrimination when applying for a job. When asked what they thought the biggest drivers of age discrimination were, 45% of survey respondents believed their companies were worried about customer perceptions of older workers, whilie 28% blamed the higher salaries that often come along with more experienced employees, and 20% said that rising health costs were the culprit, and 7% pointed the finger at technology.

Source: News Release PR Web (March 14, 2005)

Study Shows Older Workers More Open to Change

According to research conducted by Dr. Tracey Rizzuto, assistant professor of psychology at Louisiana State University, stereotypes about older workers prevent companies from benefiting from their knowledge and experience. In contrast to the deeply held stereotypes about older workers resisting change and not being able to learn new technologies and systems, her study of older workers when Pennsylvania upgraded its computer systems to streamline and standardize key business processes, found that older workers exhibited more willingness to learn the new technology than their younger counterparts. She will be presenting her findings at the 20th annual conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.
“While there may be some isolated examples of an older worker being resistant to change, this study suggests that is not typical of most older workers surveyed,” she said. Older workers saw the value of the changes and felt an obligation and loyalty to their co-workers to learn and implement the new technology.

“In fact, older workers are more inclined and interested in making changes to benefit the organization than younger workers,” she said.

. . .

“There is some research that shows older workers may not be as quick in learning new technology skills as younger people, but this study shows the commitment and willingness to learn is stronger among the older workers,” Rizzuto said.
One specific suggestion that Rizzuto had for businesses is that they provide specialized training programs for older workers to keep them current with new technological procedures.

Source: News Release Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (March 10, 2005)

Older Workers Taking Most of New Jobs: Follow-up

In a couple of follow-ups to Dean Baker's findings about older workers increasingly taking up jobs, Sue Kirchhoff writes in USA Today that "as striking, the percentage of individuals 65 and above in the workforce is the highest since 1970" and Seth Sandronsky writes for Political Affairs Journal that "increasingly, workers bear the risk for their retirements."

Kirchhoff notes that baby boomers, by aging into the over-55 group, are pushing up the numbers. However, it notes two separate trends. On the one hand, the 2001 stock market drop, which hurt stock portfolios, and reductions in pension and retiree health benefits mean some might have to keep working for financial reasons. On the other hand, surveys show many plan to keep working because they want to, even if they can afford to retire. According to Marisa DiNatale, economist at Economy.com, "the trend was there even before the economy went into recession; it's more of a structural shift," since the numbers continue a pattern of rising participation rates for older workers since the mid-1990s.

Sandronsky suggests that "economic insecurity is driving older Americans back into the labor market." He points to declining defined pension benefit plans and increased health care costs as two of the drivers. To avoid market risks, "employers are rushing to make employees bear the brunt of stock market investments for their retirements" and, "employers are increasingly choosing not to provide retirees with health insurance coverage" forcing retirees to spend more income from pensions or savings on health care. "For them, earnings from entering the labor market can help with rising health-care spending."

Sources: "Over 55? Get Back to Work!" Political Affairs Magazine (March 14, 2005); "Share of older workers increases" USA Today (March 13, 2005)

Friday, March 11, 2005

Singapore: More Help for Older Workers

According to an article by Jasmine Yin, Singapore's Committee on Ageing Issues (CAI)--co-chaired by Senior Minister of State for Health Dr Balaji Sadasivan and Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Community Development, Youth and Sports Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman--is looking into enhancing financial security of the elderly and improving employability of older workers. In addition, a tripartite committee comprising the Ministry of Manpower, the Singapore National Employers Federation and the National Trades Union Congress has also been formed to examine the employability issues of older workers.

According to a speech to Parliament from Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, "we need to review the retirement age policy, identify employment opportunities for the elderly, promote elder-friendly work and HR practices." Job creation for older Singaporeans is one of the CAI's priority areas. One possible solution to alleviate such employment woes is to establish an informal industry for older Singaporeans. "We will be piloting a community platform where the elderly and homemakers can make a living selling their own products, like cakes, handicrafts or services," he added. Other ways to help the older worker include promoting an "elder-friendly workplace" and "enlightened" human resource practices, and even providing micro-credit for such informal industry businesses.

Source: "More help for older S'poreans" TODAYonline (March 11, 2005)

U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao Addresses Challenges Of Aging Workforces

U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao delivered an speech at the G8 Conference in London, addresseing the challenges Of aging workforces. She called for "solutions that would allow older workers greater flexibility in determining their work lives and increase the pool of available older workers to meet projected growing demand for workers." According to Chao, increasing the opportunities for older workers is one way to meet the projected increase in demand in several high-tech, high-skilled fields within the U.S. service sector-—including health care, biotechnology, education, financial services, high-tech manufacturing, retail services, skilled trades and geospatial technology.

Source: News Release U.S. Department of Labor (March 9, 2005)

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Motley Fool Commentary: Need To Keep Working After 65

W.D. Crotty, commenting in Motley Fool on Social Security reform, writes taht "you and your senator face a common problem. You may have to work after age 65 to avoid outliving your retirement funds." The important thing is to plan ahead for this. He recommends that older workers contemplate turning a hobby, like antique collecting, into a business. The point is to start "working" today and test, before retirement, one's business ideas. "Then, find out what works, master those skills, and build a reputation ahead of time -- and supplement your income before retirement." However, for those wheo do not want to deal with the complexity of owning a business and a "regular" job provides both fulfillment and income, "a few years of additional employment will give them the security they need to live" to 100. "Why get bogged down with self-employment when an employer would welcome your contribution for a few years?"

Source: "Planning a Working Retirement" Motely Fool (March 10, 2005)

Senator Hagel Proposes Raising Retirement Age

In a speech at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on Social Security Reform, Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) proposed raising the retirement age from 67 to 68. Furthermore, his proposal would "maintain the current early retirement age at 62, but would adjust benefits for those who choose to retire early" so that workers who retire early would receive 63% of the traditional benefit, rather than the current 70%.

Source: Hagel Speech Detailing Social Security Reform Plan Senator Chuck Hagel (March 7, 2005)

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Being Ready for When Baby Boomers Retire

Anne Fisher interviews David DeLong, head of the workforce unit at the MIT Age Lab and author of Lost Knowledge: Confronting the Threat of an Aging Workforce. He offers thoughts on how companies can't afford to lose the expertise that 76 million retiring baby boomers will take with them and how younger employees can take advantage of the opportunities. Also, column is followed by Fortune Online forum of reader comments.

Source: "Ask Annie: Are You Ready for When Baby Boomers Retire?" Fortune (March 8, 2005)

Coastal Georgia Seeks Older Worker of the Year, Employer of the Year

The Georgia Older Worker Network is searching for Coastal Georgia's 2005 Outstanding Older Worker and its Employer of the Year and is currently soliciting nominations from businesses and individuals. The Outstanding Older Worker must be 60 years of age or older, currently employed, and working at least 20 hours each week for pay. The Employer of the Year must show a commitment to recruit, hire and retain older workers 65 years and over who are employed by the company for 20 or more hours of paid employment (minimum wage or higher) per week.

Source: "Search Under Way for Coastal Georgia's Outstanding Older Worker and Employer of the Year" The Business Report & Journal (March 8, 2005)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Research Finds Stressful Jobs Can Cause Heart Problems for Some Boomers

Stressful jobs after age 60 might cause some boomers to put their health at risk, according to a results of a study ("Age, Stress and Ambulatory Blood Pressure"> by University of Utah psychologists Timothy Smith and Bert Uchino of 384 adults ages 40 to 70 presented at the American Psychosomatic Society. At a minimum, problems on the job raise blood pressure in workers over 60, although they claim to be less upset or sad than younger employees when work problems hit. "Older workers may be more vulnerable to cardiovascular problems if they stay in high-pressure jobs, Smith says. So they might want to look for ways they can reduce stress at work."

Source: "Stressful jobs can put aging boomers at risk" USA Today (March 8, 2005)

Post-Retirement Workers Present Businesses with New Attitudes

"Bonus workers"--Abigail Trafford's term for people who have officially retired and are back in the workforce--represent "a burgeoning generation of older workers who demand autonomy, flexibility and satisfaction on the job." Thus, they can be a real challenge to a power hierarchy of organizations where workers are supposed to submit to the will of management, instead of the other way around.
But are the mid-level managers in these companies ready to deal with the mind-set of the Bonus Worker? When job candidates are plentiful, it's easy to imagine a boss throwing up her hands and saying, "Who needs an uppity codger who wants special treatment?"

To make it worthwhile for companies, older workers have to bring something extra to the job in exchange for flexibility. And many do, because of a lifetime of experience.
Source: "For Older Workers, Bonuses Cut Both Ways" Washington Post (March 8, 2005)

Preventing Crucial Knowledge Leaving with Retiring Older Workers

Anne Fisher writes about a few companies that are working on ways to capture the knowledge of older workers and disseminate it to younger workers before it's too late. What they're doing may offer a blueprint for other companies.
As the "old white guys" depart in droves, plenty of human resources managers fear that the younger workers won't be ready to step up and run the show. Boston-based consulting firm Novations Group recently surveyed 2,900 HR people and found that only one-third are confident that they have enough talent in the pipeline to keep their businesses humming as boomers bow out.
Among the practices Fisher highlights to avoid the brain drain are (1) traditional mentoring, (2) "communities of practice"-—companywide groups that meet, in person and online, to share information, (3) "action learning teams"--which put people together from several disciplines-—manufacturing, sales, marketing, legal, finance—-to solve particular problems, making sure to include young managers who participate along with older and presumably wiser colleagues, and (4) retain older people--at least part-time--until they've had a chance to teach others what they know.

Source: "How to Battle the Coming Brain Drain" Fortune (March 21, 2005)

Monday, March 07, 2005

People 50 and Older Increasingly Working for Themselves.

As a counterpoint to the Hollywood fiction of In Good Company, Carol Elliott tells about the older workers who do not survive corporate shakeups and find themselves out of work and decide it is time to do something different with their lives. According to a 2004 study by Rand Corp., about 5.6 million workers age 50 and older are now self-employed, and Elliott tells the story of a couple of these, pointing out, among things, that cheaper technology makes setting up a home office more feasible than years past, but that whatever business the older entrepreneur chooses, the rules are the same as for anyone else: "Follow your calculator, not your heart."

Source: "Boomers in business" South Bend Tribune (March 6, 2005)

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Companies Worry About Potential Liabilities from Phased Retirement Plans

While many businesses welcome the chance to bolster their workforce as a result of federal government plans to ease phased retirement, they are worried about potential liability. According to a recent Employee Benefit News QuickPoll, 31% of respondents favored phased retirement, while 13% opposed it for fear of age-discrimination lawsuits, and 29% had mixed feelings. An article by Leah Carlson quotes Sylvester Schieber, vice president for research and information at the consulting firm Watson Wyatt, as saying that employers "have been agitating for some time that they be given greater flexibility" in making payments to people in partial retirement, but also that there "are legal concerns that the IRS is going to come back and perceive that somehow we're trying to skirt the suspension of benefits in the accrual rules under the pension plan, and that we might be discriminatory in terms of how we're doing this."

Source: "Phased retirement regulations draw mixed reaction from firms" Employee Benefit News (March 2005)

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Older Workers Taking Most of the New Jobs

Looking at the February 2005 government employment figures showing that employment by workers over age 55 rose by 152,000, Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, says that that older workers continue to be the only group experiencing substantial employment gains in this economy. In fact, workers over age 55 accounted for over half--918,000 of the 1,810,000--of the rise in employment shown in the household survey over the past twelve months. Baker suggests that "[r]ising health care costs, coupled with 401(k)s that are still far below their pre-stock-market-crash peaks, seem to be the driving factor in record employment growth among older workers."

Source: Jobs Byte Center for Economic and Policy Research (March 4, 2005)

Friday, March 04, 2005

Colorado Universities, Consulting Firm Try Solving Aging Workforce Crisis in Utilities Industry

Concerned about future professional staff shortages at Colorado's utilities as their aging workforces near retirement age, E3 Consulting is bringing together faculty from the University of Colorado and Colorado State University to develop new curriculum for energy-sector career tracks at the two institutions. According to Donald J. Hurd, President and CEO of E3 Consulting, although most business, professional and industrial sectors are facing employee shortages in the future, the pending shortage is aggravated in the utility industry because it has not been able to speak with one voice or take specific action to benefit its members in ways similar to medicine, law, journalism and other more consolidated professions. "We must begin to act now to develop the next generation of talented energy-sector executives, technicians and managers to run Colorado's power-producing facilities an distribution systems in decades ahead. The solution lies in the classroom."

Source: BusinessWire News Release (February 28, 2005)

IBM Unveils Portfolio of Accessibility Technologies

At its annual PartnerWorld Conference, IBM introduced a range of solutions and developers' tools that open up the Internet and other information technology to the aging workforce and people with disabilities. Among other things, IBM demonstrated n is its talking Web browser, the Home Page Reader version 3.04, a tool for developers to test Web pages for accessibility early in the prototype and design stage as well as after the content or application has been deployed. Among the products designed to help businesses meet both growing regulatory requirements and the needs of employees and customers who are elderly, IBM specifically points out that seniors and first-time Internet users appreciate the simple user interface provided by IBM's "Easy Web Browsing" for computer users who have low vision and can use the mouse. IBM offers more information on IBM's accessibility information technology for employees, customers and Business Partners on its web site.

Source: Press Release IBM (March 2, 2005)

Thursday, March 03, 2005

South Korea: Aging Workforce and Global Competitiveness

The Korea Institute of Industrial Technology Evaluation and Planning (ITEP) is reported as finding that that Korea’s manufacturing workforce will soon begin to age at a quicker rate, and like Japan, people in their early 50s will make up the biggest share of the working population in the manufacturing industry in the next 5-10 years. According to an article by Kim Sung-jin, ITEP notes that "With the pool of workers expected to decrease in coming decades due to declining fertility and longer life spans, the Korean working-age population will face twin challenges of supporting retired elderly citizens and boosting productivity to maintain economic growth."

Source: "Aging Workforce Poses Big Challenge to Economic Growth" Korea Times (March 2, 2005)

In Good Company: Older Workers and Younger Bosses

According to an article by Randy Ray, you don't need to go see In Good Company to discover that more older employees find themselves working for younger managers and that the switch of power is raising new kinds of friction. He reports taht more employers are opting for youth over experience in grooming managers to replace veteran bosses:
"Succession planning has become an issue with the large number of older workers who are soon to leave the work force," says Linda Duxbury, a professor at the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University. Companies are trying to ensure "who will be their managers five to 10 years from now, so they go with a young person."
This causes friction since many older workers feel threatened and resentful, having been raised in a hierarchical structure under which 10 to 15 years on the job was usually a ticket to a promotion. The article includes a series of recommendations for employers, younger managers, and older workers for handling these changed circumstances.

Source: "Generation swap: Baby boomers face baby bosses" Globe and Mail (March 2, 2005)

UK: People Are Happier at Work the Older They Get:

According to research by the Employers Forum on Age (EFA), traditional age stereotypes are defunct. Among other things, the survey "Age at Work" reveals that:
  • People are happier at work the older they get: 93% of the over 60s like work - the highest among all age groups;
  • People in their 50's and 60's aren't all rushing to retire: 30% of people are happy to work until they're 70 and 13% dread retirement, a feeling that increases with age;
  • Older employees aren't all technophobic: the over 50s are as keen to get to grips with new technology as teenagers. Seventy-four per cent of the over 50s like to keep up with new technology, only 5% fewer than teenagers.
Source: Press Release Employers Forum on Age (February 17, 2005)

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Growing Number of Older Workers Going through "Phased Retirement"

In an article by By Harry Wessel, The Orlando Sentinel, three workers are profiled who are part of the trend of "phased retirement," which experts predict will become more common as baby boomers start retiring, rather than traditional "cliff retirement," in which older workers move from full-time work to full-time leisure. Deborah Russell, director of economic security for AARP, predicts the trend will emerge within three to five years in the health-care industry, with most other industries following suit. However, Dallas Salisbury of the Employment Benefit Research Institute said even with eased rules, employers will be unwilling to offer the flexible, part-time schedules older workers want.

Source: "No longer your grandparents’ retirement" Portsmouth Herald (March 2, 2005)

Australia: Mercer Recommends Raising Pension Age

In response to the Draft Report on "Economic Implications of an Ageing Australia" of Australia's Productivity Commission, Mercer Human Resource Consulting has recommended that the following policies be considered to alleviate some of the adverse economic implications arising from Australia’s ageing population.
  • Provide a framework which encourages employers to recruit and/or retain older workers;
  • Encourage older workers to remain in the workforce through appropriate financial incentives;
  • Review the lack of any clear integration between superannuation benefits and eligibility for the age pension by establishing a framework that provides a clear relationship between the benefits;
  • Bring forward the funding of the existing unfunded superannuation liabilities through a program of decreasing capital injections;
  • Gradually increase the eligibility age for the age pension from 65 to 67;
  • Reduce the front end taxation of superannuation, with some increases to taxes on benefits over the longer term.
Source: "The Mercer Response to The Productivity Commission's Draft Report 'Economic Implications of an Ageing Australia'"Mercer Human Resource Consulting (February 23, 2005)

More Seniors Use Technology to Stay Connected

According to The Oasis Institute, a February 2005 National Survey of Seniors' Attitudes on Technology conducted by Public Strategies Inc. found that seniors are embracing technology in growing numbers. Specifically, 64% of adults age 50-64 and 31% of adults 65+ are using the Internet, a significant increase over previously reported figures. This trend has led to growing interest in OASIS programs offering workplace technology skills, since people are working longer or returning to the workforce after retirement. New courses to be developed in 2005 will address workplace skills, including spreadsheets, presentations and word processing, as well as job search skills using Internet resources.

Source: Press Release The OASIS Institute (March 1, 2005)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Defined Benefit Plans, Voluntary Retirement Major Factors in Retiree Happiness

According to the study "What Makes Retirees Happy", by Keith Bender and Natalia Jivan for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, the happiest retirees have a defined-benefits package that provides a lifetime annuity. However, more importantly, the happiest retirees are those who retired voluntarily. With or without money, those forced to retire because they lost jobs or got sick are far less happy:
If individuals say that they voluntarily retired, they express much higher levels of well-being compared to those who did not voluntarily retire. It is likely that if they retired before they had expected to, they may not have completed financial or psychological preparations for retirement, leading to lower wellbeing in retirement. Indeed, the effects of involuntary retirement may actually be greater than reported here since the involuntarily retired also have lower levels of income which would decrease satisfaction even further. The second major factor is health. Unsurprisingly, those with poor health also experience dramatically lower levels of well-being. Although neither of these factors is controllable from a policy point of view, they do indicate areas where more research could be done to help assure higher levels of well-being for retirees.
Source: "What Makes Retirees Happy?" Center for Retirement Research Issues Brief (February 2005)

Netherlands: Working Past Retirement Age

Ann-Marie Michel of Radio Netherlands interviews Ger Thielen, co-ordinating secretary of the Taskforce for Older People and Employment, to address the "ominous rumblings" in Dutch newspapers about fewer workers caring for more retirees who'll live longer than ever and expect top quality of life and the government's push for drastic changes to the pension system in a bid to keep people working longer. With automatic retirement at 65--or earlier--likely to be a thing of the past, Thielen says:
You're always too late, of course, and looking at the demographic developments, I think we seriously have to try to improve participation of many people in a lot of areas, otherwise this complex society will not survive.
Source: "Working past the retirement age" Radio Netherlands (February 28, 2005)