Friday, March 30, 2012

Canada: Human Rights Commission Warns Against Forced Retirements during Transition Period before Ban on Mandatory Retirement Takes Effect

The Canadian Human Rights Commission is cautioning employers on the rights of aging workers. The section of the Human Rights Law that permitted federally regulated employers to impose mandatory retirement in some circumstances was repealed in December 26, 2011, but a one-year transition period was included before it would take effect. The Commission is now telling employers that that delay is "not a license to force aging workers out the door."

According to David Langtry, Acting Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, "Forcing someone to retire because of their age clearly contradicts Parliament’s intent, even if a defense in law still appears to be available." The Commission does not have evidence that this is taking place, but the Commission believes it is prudent to caution any employer that might be considering such action to think again. Even before it was repealed, he Federal Court had ruled that that section of the law violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that this breach is not a justifiable limitation of an individual’s right to equality.

For commentary on whether employers are focusing on, or thinking of acting on, this delay, see "Legal loophole allows ageism at work to go unpunished" and "Retirement 'loophole' overblown", both in the Vancouver Sun.

Source: Canadian Human Rights Commission News Release (March 26, 2012)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book Reviews: "Age, Gender and Work: Small Information Technology Firms in the New Economy"

Kane X. Faucher in the Western News has reviewed The University of British Columbia Press's Age, Gender, and Work: Small Information Technology Firms in the New Economy edited by Julie Ann McMullin, and published in 2011. According to Faucher, this book is a culmination of the Workforce Aging in a New Economy research program (WANE), present findings after seven years of research related to the fact that "the acceleration on the 'information superhighway' will be spotted with accidents, of which we may count those who suffer age and gender discrimination in the IT workplace."
A full complement of case studies, statistics and detailed analysis shines an unflattering light on small IT firms in Canada, but one can hope that rigorous studies such as these may become a foundation for broad initiatives of awareness. With all the concern about obsolescence in the IT industry, it is the old attitudes and assumptions about age and gender that need to be upgraded.
An earlier review in Business New Technology stated that the "volume examines how women and older workers in small IT companies are disproportionately vulnerable to economic uncertainty within their industry," and that "the authors explore how gender and age affect work and workplace culture to produce a fresh contribution to the literature on inequality."

Sources: Western News "Read All Over reviews, March" (March 29, 2012); Business New Technology Review (February 12, 2012)

EEOC Publishes Final Regulations on What is a "Reasonable Factor Other than Age" under ADEA

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has amended its age discrimination regulations to clarify that the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits policies and practices that have the effect of harming older individuals more than younger individuals, unless the employer can show that the policy or practice is based on a reasonable factor other than age ("RFOA"), in particular to explain the meaning of RFOA in relation to Supreme Court decisions.

In the final regulations, the EEOC concludes that the individual challenging an employment practice as having an age-based adverse impact is responsible for isolating and identifying the specific employment practice responsible for the adverse impact. In turn, as explained in EEOC questions and answers about the regulations, an employer would be required to prove the RFOA defense only after an employee has identified a specific employment policy or practice, and established that the practice harmed older workers substantially more than younger workers.
The rule emphasizes the need for an individualized consideration of the facts and circumstances surrounding the particular situation. It includes the following list of considerations relevant to assessing reasonableness:
  • The extent to which the factor is related to the employer’s stated business purpose;
  • The extent to which the employer defined the factor accurately and applied the factor fairly and accurately, including the extent to which managers and supervisors were given guidance or training about how to apply the factor and avoid discrimination;
  • The extent to which the employer limited supervisors’ discretion to assess employees subjectively, particularly where the criteria that the supervisors were asked to evaluate are known to be subject to negative age-based stereotypes;
  • The extent to which the employer assessed the adverse impact of its employment practice on older workers; and
  • The degree of the harm to individuals within the protected age group, in terms of both the extent of injury and the numbers of persons adversely affected, and the extent to which the employer took steps to reduce the harm, in light of the burden of undertaking such steps.
Source: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Press Release (March 29, 2012)

Flexibility Initiatives by Employers Can Benefit both Employers and Older Workers Research Finds

The Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College has published the results of research finding that workplace flexibility initiatives, when properly matched to employee needs can provide strategic benefits to older workers and their employers. In "Flex Strategies to Attract, Engage & Retain Older Workers," the Center presents corporate case studies across a variety of industry sectors that demonstrate the value of workplace flexibility’s ability to recruit, retain, and engage older workers.

The most common strategies used by the three organizations (Central Baptist Hospital, Marriott International and MITRE Corporation) surveyed were: offering part-time positions (42%), hiring retirees as consultants or temporary workers (40%), and offering flexible work arrangements for older workers (36%). According to the Center, the best, and most promising, flexibility practices are those that address managers’ concerns about such things as trust, losing control and coaching older workers.

Before providing a series of recommendations, the report offered the following conclusions:
For older workers—indeed, for employees in all age groups—having access to flexibility is predictive of greater employee engagement, less stress related to perceptions of work overload, better physical and mental health, and greater satisfaction with work/family balance. However, for maximum impact, flexibility must be the right fit for each employee. To accomplish this for older workers, the employers featured in this report offer a variety of options to customize when and where work is accomplished and how careers are organized.
Source: The Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College Publication News (March 28, 2012)

Czech Republic: Increasing Number of Pensioners Registered as Employed

According to an article by Laura Burgoine in The Prague Post, more pensioners in the Czech Republic are choosing to remain in the labor market. Specifically, data from Czech Statistical Office (ČSÚ) reveals that, in 2011, an "increase of 11,000 old-age pensioners was registered as employed last year, taking the number up to some 157,000, accounting for 7 percent of all those receiving state retirement benefits."

The main motivators behind the number of old-age pensioners in the work force growing 7% are social- and health-related as much as they are financial. Burgoine cites research suggesting a link between education and employment, with most of the employed pensioners being highly educated. She quotes Ondřej Nývlt from ČSÚ as saying: "A lot of the pensioners in the work force are doctors, lecturers and academics; people with high education seem to be more active."
One reason people with higher qualifications opt for returning to work is because they have spent a long time building a career, which they don't want to give up, Lucie Vidovićová, a sociologist from Masaryk University, said.

"Also, they are not tired from their work like those who have spent their lives doing physical labor," she said.

At the other end of the scale, the most common professions for older pensioners include working in agriculture, selling newspapers, stocking supermarket shelves and working as security guards, drivers, administrators, technical support and shop assistants.
Source: Prague Post "Older workers staying on the job" (March 28, 2012)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

United Kingdom: Employers Not Taking Proactive Steps To Engage and Retain Older Workers

A report published by Acas finds that there is little evidence of employers in the United Kingdom taking proactive steps to engage and retain older workers. According to research conducted by Cranfield School of Management and Nottingham Business School, "The Employment Relations Challenges of an Ageing Workforce" concludes that "if the UK economy is to fully benefit from the skills and experience of its older workers, a larger proportion of organisations will need to adopt age management policies and practices which are effectively communicated to their workforces."
On a broader level the evidence suggests that despite anti-age discrimination legislation and the removal of age barriers in employment policies and practices, there continue to be stereotypical attitudes towards individuals based on age in the workplace, including the view that a person’s performance decreases from age 50 onwards, and that many employers generalise from what was actually limited experience of older workers with older workers seen as lacking technological skills and being less adaptable to change than younger workers.
Interestingly, the authors also note that there is some evidence that anti-discrimination legislation is "having a deadening effect on employers’ proactivity in addressing age related issues on the grounds that to do so would be discriminatory as it would introduce different treatment for different age groups."

Among the recommendations for age management policies, the report includes:
  • embedding in the employment relationship a better understanding of how age is currently conceptualized in the world of work in order to maximize the organizational engagement and contribution of older workers;
  • workforce training and other initiatives to change the organizational culture around stereotypical attitudes about both older and younger workers; and
  • better targeted guidance and education which stresses the business benefits of innovative working practices, engagement and communication, rather than just focusing on compliance with the anti-age discrimination legislation.
Source: Acas News Release (March 28, 2012)

South Korea: Debate on Raising Retirement Age Continues with Generational Conflict at Issue

According to an article in the Korea Herald, social consensus around raising the retirement age seems to be still out of reach, even as major employers are filling jobs with older employees. Kim Kyung-ho writes that generational tensions are at issue, as some "express concerns that extending retirement age would lead to a further reduction in job opportunities for young people, whose jobless rate is hovering around 8%." In fact, the trilateral commission looking in to the retirement age issue has launched a separate subpanel on "co-existence between generations" and have tasked it with "drawing up methods to increase jobs in a way that avoids a zero sum game that forces a choice between jobs for the young and employment for the old."

In framing the debate, the article contrasts:
Many labor experts have argued that extending the retirement age has little impact on youth employment, saying concerns over intergenerational competition or conflict over jobs are exaggerated in most cases.

“On the level of an individual company, they may appear to be substituted for each other,” said Phang Ha-nam, a senior researcher at the Korea Labor Institute, a non-profit research organization in Seoul.
with a report released by the Samsung Economic Research Institute suggesting job opportunities for young people have been at least partly substituted by the elder generation’s extended employment:
A 1 percentage point increase in the employment rate of people in their 50s translated into a 0.5 percentage point decrease in that of 20-somethings between 2005 and 2010, according to the report.

Particularly from 2007-09 when the global financial crisis brewed and peaked, the rate declined by 0.84 percent for the young but rose by 1 percent for the old.

“It would be desirable for jobs to increase at the same time for both the older and younger generations, but in reality that is not the case,” said Tae Won-you, a SERI research fellow.
Source: Korea Herald "Intergenerational tension over jobs" (March 27, 2012)

Canada: Delayed Retirements will Increase and Gradual Changes to Retirement Age Should Follow

According to a report issued the C.D. Howe Institute, over the next 20 years in Canada, there will be "a strong trend towards later retirement by babyboomers as a result of social and economic pressures, without any policy action by government to raise retirement levels." Specifically, “Later Retirement: The Win-Win Solution” estimates that future retirees are likely to work five additional years on average.

Peter Hicks a former federal Assistant Deputy Minister, the report's author, says that this additional work effort will have large, positive economic and fiscal effects, the author reports, reducing pressures on growth, government finances and pension funding. While Hicks says that there is no immediate crisis in public pensions to be addressed, a key reform will be to gradually increase the standard age of pension eligibility in order to bring it more in line with increases in longevity. "For example, it makes no sense to continue with a standard age of 65 for public pension eligibility when the average retirement age will soon be 68."
“The trend towards later retirement will significantly reduce, although not entirely offset, the much-discussed negative macro-economic and labour-market effects of population aging,” says Peter Hicks a former federal Assistant Deputy Minister. “This suggests that compensating policy reforms are still needed but can be less draconian than has often been thought to be necessary.”
The largest problem Hicks perceives may be among a "relatively small number" of people those who cannot work longer and who might be negatively affected by changes in pension eligibility age, but he believes even this can be ameliorated by gradual changes.

Source: C.D. Howe Institute Media Release (March 27, 2012)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Demographics of Aging Workforce as Indicator of Slower Future Growth, Deeper Recessions

According to two economists, James Stock and Mark Watson, in the future, U.S. growth will be slower, recessions will be deeper, and recoveries will be weaker because of demographics--in particular because of the plateau in the female labor force participation rate, and the aging of the U.S. workforce. In the draft of their conference paper for the Brookings Panel on Economic Activity--"Disentangling the Channels of the 2007-2009 Recession," they write:
The main conclusion from this demographic work is that, barring a new increase in female labor force participation or a significant increase in the growth rate of the population, these demographic factors point towards a further decline in trend growth of employment and hours in the coming decades. Applying this demographic view to recessions and recoveries suggests that the future recessions with historically typical cyclical behavior will have steeper declines and slower recoveries in output and employment.
Derek Thompson, writing for The Atlantic, says that another way of looking at what Stock and Watson found is that "As 80 million Boomers move into retirement, a smaller share of our population will be working ... and a rising share will be seeking increasingly expensive medical attention from the workforce that is left over. That adds up to a less dynamic economy." Thompson does hope "that the transition to a service economy will allow older people to work longer than they have in the past," and also notes that there are low-hanging solutions to creating more working Americans, including changes in immigration policy, housing policy, and reducing costs of education and medicine.

Source: The Atlantic "Gray Nation: The Very Real Economic Dangers of an Aging America" (March 26, 2012)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sloan Center on Aging & Work Releases Innovative Practices Database

The Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College has announced that it has launched a searchable database of summaries of innovative practices from industry sectors such as health care, pharmaceutical, financial services, education and manufacturing. The Innovative Practice Database has been released with 26 summaries of organizational responses to the business challenges, innovative strategies and competitive solutions associated with multi-generational workforce issues.

The cases highlight employers’ strategic goals and programs that respond to today’s age diversity. The Sloan Center works with the participating employers to select focal areas of strategic value and current interest to businesses. In addition to launching the database, the Center is seeking to grow it by soliciting other organizations to provide it with examples of their own innovative practices.

The database can be browsed by case/organization or can be searched by word, staff size, United States or international, industry sector, business driver (such as business costs/ROI, employee engagement, and career development), and profit or non-profit.

Source: The Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College Announcement (March 26, 2012)

New Zealand: Preview of Study Challenging Perception of Older Workers as Less Productive

Although New Zealand's Equal Employment Opportunities Trust report on "Older Workers: Challenging Myths and Managing Realities" is not due out until mid-2012, a preview has been published about the research finding that there is no direct relationship between older age and productivity--but productivity could be worsened by age discrimination. According to the Sunday Star-Times, the report suggests that older workers are seen as less productive, less able and less worth the expense of upskilling--and that younger bosses in particular might benefit from "age management" training.

The article quotes EEO researcher Dr Mervyl McPherson:
"There is more difference between individuals within the same age group than there is between age groups in productivity, health, ability to learn," she said.

"Keeping older workers [employed] means they are still working and paying tax, and that offsets some of the demands that the babyboomers are going to be making in terms of welfare and superannuation and health."
While more detailed recommendations will be included in the final report, McPherson mentioned better working flexibility and more upskilling of older workers, along with wider options for "bridge employment"--options that allow people nearing retirement to move into less responsible, part-time or project-based roles. According to her, an employer was frequently more likely to get another five or ten years' service from someone who re-trained at 55 or 60 than from a younger person who then quickly moved on.
Low-skilled workers at each end of the age spectrum suffered in downturns--and McPherson said that was an issue for older workers coming out of industries where their skills were defunct, such as manufacturing.

"They are the ones most in need of work because they are on low incomes and so they are probably less prepared for retirement. But they haven't got the skills for the current economy," said McPherson.

The report suggested they might face discrimination when it came to who was chosen for retraining--or consider themselves not worth the expense.
Source: "Making the most of older workers" (March 26, 2012)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Survey Highlights Challenges in Transitioning to Encore Careers

While as many as 31 million people ages 44 to 70 want encore careers that combine personal meaning, continued income and social impact, a study from The MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures reports that millions of these people face difficulties in making the transition from earlier work to encore careers, necessitating new approaches and tools to help experienced workers plan and finance a transitional period to a successful encore career. In addition, the report states that, of the 9 million people who are already in encore careers, two in three experienced reduced or no income during the transition to their encores.

"Bridging the Gap: Making it Easier to Finance Encore Transitions" also found that 40% of those surveyed do not feel secure enough financially to make a career change in this economy; 29% do not know which type of job or career to pursue, and 16% do not have the time to explore a new career. Those who are interested in encore careers plan on working longer:
The economic downturn is spurring longer working lives. Those who are not already retired say they plan to work to an average of 65.8 years old, 2.1 years longer than they thought they would before the downturn.

People currently in encore careers expect to work even longer, to 66.5 years old on average. Those interested in encore careers expect to work until 66.2 years on average and plan on working 23.4 hours per week for 8.5 years in their encore careers.
Based on the survey, a number of recommendations have been put forward, including: more encore financial planning, new savings options, accelerated accessible and affordable training, encore education assistance, entrepreneurship support, and Social Security flexibility.Source: Encore Careers News Release (March 21, 2012)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Australia: Chamber Encourages Employers to Hire Older Workers and Others "Outside the Box"

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) has launched a campaign to encourage employers to hire "outside the box" when they next recruit. To bolster the workforce, the ACCI says Australia needs to increase participation amongst mature aged people, women with caring responsibilities, indigenous Australians, people with a disability, and from the unemployed including youth. According to ACCI Chief Executive Peter Anderson, "With ageing demographics, sluggish productivity and forecast skill shortages, industry needs to think laterally and long term when it comes to recruitment."

As part of its campaign, ACCI has released both "Employ Outside the Box: The rewards of a diverse workforce" and "The Business Case for Recruiting and Retaining Mature Age Workers." The latter is intended to be a practical guide presenting a business case as to an employer should consider employing "outside the box" when it comes to the next hire, with a specific focus on "a significant and often highly skilled and work ready group currently 'outside the box'"--mature aged workers.
There are varying definitions of a mature aged worker, some use 45+ others 50+, with an extension of range to beyond 75 years. There are, of course, differences in approach needed for each age group as their needs may differ.

With this guide, we have tried to concentrate on the common issues. Issues that confront particularly the more senior mature aged workers includes elements of health, retirement, stage of life, impending lifestyle changes &
Among other things, the guide offers separate, multi-step advice to employers on (1) getting started by developing a strategy to recruit and retain mature aged workers, (2) keeping mature age workers that an employer already has, and (3) recruiting mature age workers. In addition, the guide offers good practices in age management, including:
Good practices should include appropriate retention and recruitment strategies to cover those who have left the workforce as well as offering attractive roles and working conditions for employees who might otherwise consider retirement.

Emphasis is placed on flexibility of workplace conditions and suitable jobs as attractors for employees (noting increased opportunities for mentoring and training roles). Retention of experience should be a prime driver.

Good practice also comprises combating age barriers & providing an environment in which each individual is able to work towards achieving his/her potential without being disadvantaged by their age.

Other key components are job recruitment and exit, training and development, suitable ergonomics and job design and positive attitudes towards mature aged workers.
Source: Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Media Release (March 20, 2012)

Monday, March 19, 2012

"Bouncy Floors" and Other Innovations: Making Workplace Safer for Older Workers

In one of series of articles on older workers, Misty Harris writes that "[f]rom offices with flex-floors to injectable heart monitors and mobile medication alerts, experts predict our job sites could one day come to offer a standard of safety approaching that of a care facility." Among other developments in the offing that could come to the workplace, Harris points to:
  • biometric sensors no bigger than Band-Aids that will improve doctors’ capacity to remotely monitor workers’ overall health;
  • smart canes that provide real-time feedback on proper gait and potentially alert a person’s colleagues by text if a fall occurs in the workplace;
  • belts with built-in airbags that deploy when sensors detect that a fall is imminent; and
  • a "bouncy" floor that's compliant enough to absorb a fall, but hard enough not to inhibit regular activity.
As Harris points out, it’s "all part of a vision of the future in which employees and employers alike assume greater responsibility for workers’ well-being."
"If you’ve got people living longer, and they’re reasonably healthy, they need to be able to work," says Gloria Gutman, director emerita of the Simon Fraser University Gerontology Research Centre. "You could think of gerontechnology as the idea of, 'what can we (make) that will allow people to do that for as long as possible?'"
Source: Postmedia News "New tech helps aging workers bounce back from health issues, falls--literally" (March 19, 2012)

Additional Source: See also AARP Blog "Reading This On A Computer? The Glasses You May Need" (March 19, 2012)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Australia: Research Suggests Age Discrimination Not Widespread

A national survey suggests that prejudice against older workers in Australia is not nearly as widespread as the community believes. As reported by Adele Horin in the Sydney Morning Herald, the research led by Philip Taylor, of Monash University, found that workers aged 55 and over are no more likely than those younger to be overlooked for promotion or professional development, ostracized by their workmates, or made to feel as if they should leave.

Taylor is quoted as saying that the "results are surprising given what is said about age discrimination by advocacy groups and policymakers." "Young and prime-age workers are just as likely to complain about these problems as older workers." However, Taylor did point out that the story can be different for older jobseekers trying to get back into the workforce, with recruitment agencies often failing to put forward older jobseekers and employers falling back on age stereotyping.
Professor Taylor said the problem with the barrage of negative publicity was that older workers internalised the messages: ''They believe they're over the hill when in fact older workers do not encounter the rampant age prejudice it is often assumed they do.''
Older workers who missed out on opportunities might attribute their lack of a success to ageism when the problem was lack of the appropriate skills, he said.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald "Age discrimination 'not widespread'" (March 17, 2012). See also "Does workplace age discrimination exist? New data from a survey of the Australian workforce? Brotherhood of St. Laurence seminar.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Malaysia: Support for Impending Changes in Retirement Age

A series of articles in the Star Online discuss impending changes to raise the retirement age in Malaysia from 55 to 60. According to the reports, the goverment intends to officially set the private sector's retirement age at 60, following proposals to raise the civil service retirement age to 60 from 58 last October. "[T]he Private Sector Retirement Age Bill will be tabled in parliament soon, with provisos to allow those who reach 60 to renew up to 64 and may contain a clause allowing people to retire earlier."

Support for such changes was found a survey conducted by in which some 84% of surveyed job seekers aged between 18 and 41 agreed with the retirement age extension because they felt they needed to work till they are older to get higher retirement savings due to the increase in life expectancy.

Various Malaysians quoted in the articles also support the changes:
AS Malaysia moves towards being an ageing society by 2030, with 15% of the population aged 60 and above, Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Shamsuddin Bardan says there will be a need to “properly manage and utilise the older employees”

Malaysian Institute of Human Resource Management honorary general secretary J. Aresandiran says that with the local economy on a steady growth trajectory, the country cannot risk “too many people retiring”.


Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations president Datuk N. Marimuthu says with many Malaysians today marrying at a later age, it is necessary to increase the retirement age.

“Many people marry and have children late in their lives. When they retire, their children are still young and they still need money to finance their children,” he says, adding that increasing the retirement age to 60 years is “practical”.
However, resistance to the changes is also noted:
Human resource experts cite issues of efficiency and productivity as reasons why employers are objecting to the higher retirement age. Kelly Services managing director for Singapore and Malaysia Melissa Norman says it is undeniable that the current rigidity in terminating staff in Malaysia is a critical factor that prevents most employers from agreeing to the proposed retirement bill.
Sources: The Star Online"Pushing back the retirement age" (March 17, 2012); The Star Online "Prospects for retirees" (March 17, 2012); The Star Online "Malaysia needs flexible labour laws" (March 17, 2012)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Canada: Report that Gen X Workers Getting Squeezed in Multigenerational Workforce

A report finds that baby boomers are making up less of the Canadian workforce than they used to, but it is the Gen Ys who are benefiting more than the Gen X workers. According to the PwC report "Value through your people: Workforce performance in Canadian banking," between 2006 and 2010, the ratio of Baby Boomers to Gen Y employees at Canadian banks shrunk fr0m 6:1 to less than 2:1, while Gen X is by far the largest generational employee group for Canadian banks, comprising a "quiet majority" of between 55% and 60% of the total workforce. Nevertheless, while promotion rates for Gen Ys held steady at close to 20% over a three-year period and Boomers’ promotion rates fell from 5% to 3%, Gen X promotions rates also fell from over 11% to less than 10%.
[Dr. Philip Hunter, a director in PwC’s People and Change practice] believes that Gen Xers are perhaps being "squeezed" by older workers delaying retirement, and younger, more aggressive Gen Ys intent on rising through the ranks quickly. "Other contributing factors may include changes to operating models that favour relationship skills rather than management expertise, and career paths characterized by more stringent promotion criteria at more senior levels, which would disproportionately impact Gen Xers," he says.
Karen Forward, a director in PwC’s Financial Services People and Change practice, suggests that "[b]anks and other industries with multi-generational workforces have to be taking a different approach in thinking about career progression, the formal promotions process and changes to their operating model." In addition, she says that banks need to focus on what expectations they have around each of the generations in the workforce and "to look at collaboration tools, skill transfer programs and address the Gen X 'squeeze' to keep these key employees engaged."

Source: PriceWaterhouseCoopers Press Release (March 15, 2012)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

EBRI: Retirement Confidence Survey Shows Continued Concerns among U.S. Workers

The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) has released its 2012 Retirement Confidence Survey and reports that Americans’ confidence in their ability to retire comfortably is stagnant at historically low levels and employment insecurity looms large. Among other things, the "The 2012 Retirement Confidence Survey: Job Insecurity, Debt Weigh on Retirement Confidence, Savings" finds that 25% of workers say the age at which they expect to retire has changed in the past year: while, in 1991, 11% of workers said they expected to retire after age 65, by 2012 that has grown to 37%.

The poor economy (36%), lack of faith in Social Security or the government (16%) and a change in employment situation (15%) were the most frequently cited reasons for postponing retirement.

Among other findings:
  • 42% identify job uncertainty as the most pressing financial issue facing most Americans today;
  • 60% of workers report that the total value of their household’s savings and investments, excluding the value of their primary home and any defined benefit plans, is less than $25,000;
  • half of current retirees surveyed say they left the work force unexpectedly due to health problems, disability, or changes at their employer, such as downsizing or closure.
Source: EBRI Press Release (March 13, 2012)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

United Kingdom: Report Examines Older Employee Health in Light of Elimination of Default Retirement Age

UNISON has issued a report with analysis of the English Longitudinal Survey of Ageing (ELSA), carried out for it by the NatCen Social Research, challenging the common sense view of politicians that as life expectancy is increasing we all need to work longer before we retire with "the fact that when we are older we are more likely to experience health-related issues that make it unlikely that we will be able to work to the same level as earlier in our careers." According to "Older Workers Briefing Report: Secondary analysis of ELSA," recognizing and responding to these issues will be an important consideration for both employees and employers.

Among other things, the report highlights that, of people aged 60-65, 32% have a longstanding health issue that limits their activities, 28% have a self-reported health issue that limits their work, 28% are often in severe or
moderate pain, and 51% report some kind of mobility difficulty. Looking at employees at those age, the report highlights that they are concentrated in jobs where they are mostly sitting or standing, they have a lower incidence
of limiting health issues compared with 60-65 year olds generally, and one-third reported that their employer had changed their job in some way or that they would like it to change.

Thus, the report suggests employment practices will come under scrutiny for their role in dealing fairly with capability issues and facilitating continued employment. For example:
[S]ome older workers find the mental and/or physical demands of their job difficult and points to a desire among some for greater flexible working in the form of part-time hours, job sharing, flexi-time and home working. Increasing the availability of such arrangements may indeed be one way in which employers and employees can negotiate some of the challenges that working into old age is likely to pose.
However, Dave Prentis, UNISON's General Secretary, believes that just better practices are not enough: "We need longer-term solutions that guarantee protections and support for all older workers, and recognise health inequalities that mean many who work longer will find work harder and then have fewer years left to them when they retire."

Source: NatCen Social Research Blog Posting (March 8, 2012)

Friday, March 09, 2012

Report: Older Workers Experiencing Disproportionately Longer Periods without Work

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) has issued an issue brief finding that prolonged spells of joblessness--of a year or more--have disproportionately affected older unemployed workers (those aged 50 years and older) throughout the recession and its aftermath. According to "Economy in Focus: Long Road Ahead for Older Unemployed Worker," the number of long-term unemployed older workers has more than quintupled, to 1.8 million in 2011, and, compared to other age groups, once older workers became unemployed, they were most likely to become long-term unemployed.

During 2011, more than half of older jobless workers were out of work for six months or more, and four in ten older unemployed workers were out of work for at least one year in 2011. While older workers were underrepresented among the unemployed (23.5%) relative to their share of the labor force in 2011 (31.5%), they were overrepresented among the long-term unemployed (29.2%) relative to their share of the unemployed. Even though older workers had the lowest average monthly unemployment rate in 2011 (6.7%), it is more than double their rate in 2007 (3.1%), and older workers experienced the greatest percentage increase in the size of their unemployed population--more than doubling from 1.3 million in 2007 to 3.2 million in 2011.

NELP concludes by recommending:
Policymakers are tasked with developing new ways to help older unemployed workers more quickly find their way back to good employment and financial self-sufficiency. This includes addressing the problem of discrimination against the unemployed. Federal legislation banning this practice is pending; state legislation modeled on this bill has been proposed in thirteen states. This also includes addressing the special training needs of older workers, who are more likely to require assistance aligning their skills with the needs of growing industries, and exploring targeted reemployment strategies
Sources: National Employment Law Project News Release (March 9, 2012); Huffington Post "Jobs Report: When Will Things Get Better For Older Workers Who've Lost Their Jobs?" (March 9, 2012)

United Kingdom: Survey Finds Employers Embracing "Ageless" Workforce, but Concerned about Absences

A survey of a sampling of 500 United Kingdom businesses conducted for Group Risk Development (GRiD) finds that employers are broadly positive about the removal of the default retirement age (DRA) in the workforce. Specifically, 23% of the employers questioned believed that removing the DRA would enable them to retain the best talent within the business, with 12% saying it would increase diversity in the workplace. In addition, another 19% said they had already encouraged staff to work beyond retirement age before the DRA was removed.

One concern that employers have that emerged from the survey is managing absence levels among older workers. According to GRiD, 17% of companies are worried about their older workers being fit and able to do the job, and 11% believe it will drive up sickness absence costs with knock on impact for the whole team. A further 8% said they were worried about managing the capability process (performance management/appraisals) fairly. Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, said:
Put simply, businesses fear that older workers are more likely to be sick than their younger colleagues and will have less incentive to return to work. It’s for this reason that the group risk industry worked with Government to ensure that businesses can take the same practical approach as the State does with working age benefits (which cease at State Pension Age). Employers are therefore not actually obliged to extend provision of insured protection products (such as Group Life Assurance, Group Income Protection and Group Critical Illness) beyond age 65 or State Pension Age, as this increases.

For those employers who do choose to continue these benefits to their staff beyond age 65, group risk providers can be flexible in accommodating a range of upper ages or other solutions – such as a limited payment period under a group income protection policy.
Source: Group Risk Development News Release (March 9, 2012)

Australia: HR Survey Released on Retention of and Attitudes Towards Mature Workers

The Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) has released the results of a survey of 1212 AHRI members on mature age workforce participation finding, among other things, that 46% report that the departure of older workers from their workplace in the last year has caused loss of key knowledge or skills and 35% believe their organization is biased to some extent against the employment of older workers. The "HR Pulse Survey: Mature Age Workforce Participation" report also finds:
  • 22% report that the departure of older workers has caused the organization to be less competitive;
  • 83% would like to see steps taken within their organization to retain older workers;
  • 49% believe their organization would be disposed to support government initiatives to recruit a greater proportion of older workers;
  • 62% report their organization does not distinguish between older and younger workers when deciding who to keep on the payroll;
  • 61% oppose the idea of the government raising the retirement age to retain greater numbers of older workers;
  • 67% believe the retention of older workers would benefit productivity, with 26% believing it would have no impact on productivity;
  • given limited choices, respondents would prefer their organization to source recruits from unemployed older workers (49%), skilled immigrants (26%), unemployed youth (13%), unemployed Australians with a disability (7%) and unemployed Australians from indigenous backgrounds (7%);
  • 77% report retaining older workers as a necessary precaution against the sudden loss of essential knowledge and skills; and
  • 37% report being certain that negative
    perceptions in their workplace about older workers have no influence on recruitment decisions.
Source: Australian Human Resources Institute News Release (March 8, 2012)

Thursday, March 08, 2012

United Kingdom: Major HR Group Issues Guide for Managing Older Workers

The UK's Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has practical guidance designed to help employers respond successfully to the talent management challenges and opportunities they will face over the early decades of the 21st century. According to CIPD, the guide--"Managing a healthy ageing workforce: A national business imperative"--should help employers to use older workers to fill the coming gap between the estimated 13.5 million jobs that will be created over the next 10 years and the only 7 million young people available to fill them by revisiting their workforce planning strategies to accommodate this major change.

In particular, CIPD suggests that HR should take the lead on this issue and work in partnership with line managers and senior colleagues to secure the best results. Dianah Worman, the CIPD’s diversity adviser, said:
Organisations that respond appropriately to the challenges of an ageing workforce will gain a significant competitive edge, both in terms of recruiting and retaining talent, but also through supporting the well-being and engagement of employees of all ages.
CIPD worked with the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives (SCHWL) at NHS Health Scotland to produce the new guide. It provides practical and simple guidance to help slow starters catch up and for those already engaged with the agenda to improve the way they respond to it. Basically, it takes an organization through a three-step process:
  • building the business case,
  • addressing the myths, and
  • talent management.
Source: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development News Release (March 8, 2012)

United Kingdom: DWP Issues Positive Review of Website for the 50 Plus Worker

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has published a report, reviewing "50 Plus Works" (a free to use website designed to assist staff in provider organisations who are helping older jobseekers to return to work), and finding that the website "is comprehensive, up to date, well received, and widely used and that [the website] has clearly filled a gap in the market for a high quality, online, free at the point of use guide and tool kit for those helping the 50+ return to work." "50 Plus Works" which was developed and operated by The Age and Employment Network (TAEN) and was co-financed by DWP and the European Social Fund (ESF) Technical Assistance.

Authored by Tim Willis, "Not just another website: Review of “50 Plus Works” good-practice guide and toolkit" also finds that, among other things:
  • "50 Plus Works” is seen by users of the website as a good quality trusted source of information, as a simple tool to use that benefits from being regularly updated, it is clearly written and well edited and easy to navigate around.
  • '50 Plus Works' is seen by users of the website as a comprehensive and convenient tool for advisers working with older jobseekers - having everything needed in one place, saving time and effort.
  • '50 Plus Works' is appreciated by users of the website as a completely free resource. Other advisory and skills based web-tools typically offer limited features for free and attempt to sell additional services for a fee.
  • This website has been well received by its target audience and is seen as the reference tool of choice by providers working with older jobseekers.
In addition to the report, an Annex provides a graphical presentation of some metrics with respect to the website, including traffic.

Source: Department for Work and Pensions Synopsis: In-House Research No. 8 (March 2012)

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Report: Older Workers Leaving U.S. Labor Market Helping Lower Unemployment Rates

According to press reports, Barclays Capital has issued a report finding that the size of the U.S. workforce is shrinking as baby boomers retire, which will lead to reducing the jobless rate faster than expected. In an article by Kevin Hall, of McClatchy News Service, in "Dispelling an Urban Legend," Barclays economist Dean Maki argues that the size of the U.S. workforce is shrinking as aging baby boomers hit retirement age amid a sluggish economy. This--and not the so-called missing workers from the labor force--may be knocking down the jobless rate faster than expected.
“Based on our reading of the evidence, the conventional view that in recoveries the unemployment rate will stop falling and even start to rise because of surging labor force participation rates amounts to something of an urban legend,” Maki and his colleagues concluded. “Such an event has not happened in the past and we do not believe it will this time either.”
Source: Miami Herald "Older workers exiting fast, shrinking the labor force, study says" (March 7, 2012)

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Canada: Government Seeks Employer Views on Retaining and Attracting Older Workers

Alice Wong, Canada's Minister of State (Seniors), has announced that the National Seniors Council’s new priority for 2012 is to seek employers’ views on how to retain and attract older workers, specifically those who are most vulnerable.
"It is important that the Council speak to employers about their views on the challenges and opportunities of an aging workforce," said Minister of State Wong. "Input from the Council’s engagement activities will provide the Government of Canada with valuable information to help shape policies, programs and services that support older Canadians."
Source: Minister of State (Seniors) News Release (March 6, 2011)

Netherlands: Report Shows Older Workers Not Getting Hired

UWV's annual report of Dutch vacancies shows that only two percent of vacancies in 2011 were filled by workers 55 and over. The report ("Vacatures in Nederland 2011") also states, among other things, that the proportion of companies workers over 55 in service decreased to 54% from the 60% indicated by companies surveyed in 2010.

In response, UMV says that it will make 150 additional coaches available working for free as guides for older workers.

Source: UWV Press Release (March 6, 2012)

Australia: Effect of Global Financial Crisis on Older Workers

According to researchers from National Seniors Australia's Productive Ageing Centre, older single women in poor health and on lower incomes were the worst hit of Baby Boomers ( 5.5 million people born between 1946 and 1965, with many of the eldest already retired) by the global financial crisis. In the report--"Ageing Baby Boomers in Australia: Understanding the effects of the global financial crisis," around half those still working said they had been affected by the crisis and would delay their retirement, compared with 27% who rated themselves financially secure.

The survey reported that, despite the widespread financial effects of the recession, only 24% of retirees affected by the crisis expected to return to work or increase the paid work they were already doing. This proportion was even lower for those who were not financially affected by the GFC (16%).
Workers most affected by the crisis are set to stay in paid employment longer than anticipated and appear to be contributing more to their superannuation plans than pre-GFC. Interestingly, working baby boomers affected by the crisis are more likely to withdraw superannuation funds earlier at the expense of tax bonuses.
Among the lessons for the future suggested in the report, employers and governments are told that they "need to concentrate on making workplaces more welcoming to older workers," and that "one of the best ways to do this is to reduce ageism in hiring practices and work cultures."

Source: National Seniors Media Release (March 5, 2012)

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Europe: White Paper on Pensions Includes Recommendations on Enabling People to Continue Working

A White Paper published by the European Commission on adequate, safe and sustainable pensions looks at how the EU and the member states can work to tackle the major challenges that confront our pension systems. Among other things, it puts forward a range of initiatives to help create the right conditions so that those who are able can continue working--leading to a better balance between time in work and time in retirement; to ensure people who move to another country can keep their pension rights; to help people save more and ensure that pension promises are kept and people get what they expect in retirement.

The White Paper includes proposals to:
  • create better opportunities for older workers by calling on the social partners to adapt work place and labour market practices and by using the European Social Fund to bring older workers into work. Enabling people to work longer is a major focus of the European Year 2012 for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations;
  • make supplementary pensions compatible with mobility, through legislation protecting the pension rights of mobile workers and by promoting the establishment of pension tracking services across the EU. This can provide citizens with information about pension entitlements and projections of their income after retirement.
  • encourage Member States to promote longer working lives, by linking retirement age with life expectancy, restricting access to early retirement and closing the pension gap between men and women.
  • continue to monitor the adequacy, sustainability and safety of pensions and support pension reforms in the Member States.
The EU has also published an FAQ on the White Paper. In prepared remarks, Commissioner László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, said that while the White Paper aimed to improve the employability of older workers, raising the pensionable age alone is not enough, and that member states need take into account the fact that the ability to work--and to find employment--differs widely between individuals, and that life expectancy and health status at age 60 or age 65 tends to be lower for manual workers who started working at a young age. Source: Press Release (February 16, 2012)