Job statistics show widespread age discrimination?

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picture credit: re-employment.sg
 

By: Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “Why can’t employers be forced to rehire staff at 62?” (Straits Times, Dec 24).

Reasons why can’t have “compulsory rehiring” law?

It states: “Some labour policies can, and ought, to be made mandatory, such as workplace-injury insurance to protect workers. But it is difficult to impose the law on other labour practices. Hiring is one of them.

“If there is a law that makes it compulsory for employers to rehire workers at 62, companies will stop hiring the not-so-old people in the first place, for fear of having to continue providing them with jobs when they turn 62. Or they will offer contract work rather than taking them on as permanent staff.

“Those in their 50s who have to change jobs, for whatever reason, will have diminished chances of landing permanent jobs. The implications are wide-ranging.”

Other countries have age discrimination laws?

In this connection, “Australia adopted an age discrimination law in 2004 but it contained a higher standard of causation compared to other Australian anti-discrimination laws. Older workers were required to show that age discrimination was the “dominant reason” for an adverse employment action (i.e. dismissal, failure to promote.)”

“(USA) passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967”

“The 13-judge European Union Court of Justice in 2007 upheld mandatory retirement age age 65. The Court agreed that discrimination based on age is illegal”.

So, arguably, the “very weak” age discrimination labour legislation in Singapore, may have contributed to apparently widespread age discrimination in Singapore.

Real wages drop from age 37 to 20% less than when they were at age 25?

For example, according to the study on retirement adequacy (“ADEQUACY OF SINGAPORE’S CENTRAL PROVIDENT FUND PAYOUTS: INCOME REPLACEMENT RATES OF ENTRANT WORKERS”) commissioned by the Government in November 2012 – the graph on page 6 – the real growth in wages at the 30th percentile of income male workers – starts to decline from around age 37 until by age 65 – they are earning about 20% less than what they were getting at age 25!

Age 50 and over worse hit?

The latest Ministry of Manpower labour report says that those age 50 and over now form the highest proportion by age – of the long-term unemployed.

Widespread age discrimination?

Are there any developed or developing countries in the world that has such “pathetic”  statistics indicating age discrimination in jobs and pay?

Re-employment Act is a joke?

As to “The law currently provides a certain level of protection for older workers. Employers cannot simply tell workers to go on their 62nd birthday. Instead, they are required to offer re-employment to those who are healthy and performing well, or offer a golden handshake.

If the worker is to be retained, he can remain in the same job or move to a different job.

There may be concerns for workers who want to keep working after 62 without any loss in pay or benefits, especially if they suspect that their employers are taking the opportunity to shed older workers from their workforce.

Those who feel that they have been unfairly treated can always complain to the Manpower Ministry or the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices.

Unfortunately, the right for workers to have a job after 62 cannot be a right that the law imposes on employers.

The bottom line is this: No employer owes any worker a living.” –

Guidelines on re-employment of older workers revised? 

Employer determines performance and fitness to be re-employed?

It states that “Employers should aim to re-employ the majority of their older employees. Re-employment contracts should be offered to all employees who are medically fit to continue working and whose performance are assessed satisfactory or better.”

Does this mean that the employer can arbitrarily choose not to offer re-employment to the employee, if the employee is assessed by his employer to not have satisfactory work performance or is not medically fit to continue working?

Employer can offer any terms?

As to “Employers and employees are encouraged to be flexible in negotiating re-employment terms and benefits. Reasonable adjustments to employment terms, including wages and benefits, may be made – but employers should consider the impact on the income of re-employed staff, particularly low-wage workers” – does this mean that an employer can offer any terms – large pay cut, longer work hours, heavier work load, different job scope, etc – and if the employee does not accept – the employer would have fulfilled its obligations under the legislation?

In such situations, the employee may not be eligible for any Employment Assistance Payment (EAP) at all?

One-time payment of $5,500 to $13,000?

With regard to “Employers should consider all available re-employment options to identify suitable jobs for eligible staff. If employers are unable to offer re-employment, as a last resort, they are required to offer an Employment Assistance Payment (EAP). Revised EAP amounts – that could be 3.5 months of salary, at a minimum of $5,500 and capped at $13,000 – take into account rising wages and the fact that employers’ re-employment obligations will be extended by two years” – does it mean that If the employer does not want even to offer any terms – its just a one-time payment of $5,500 to $13,000?

Protecting workers?

Isn’t the legislation and guidelines arguably, rather weak in protecting workers? Do we have possibly the weakest re-employment legislation in the world, from the perspective of workers’ rights?

To make things simple, perhaps we should consider just simply extending the retirement age to 65 or 67, instead of having a re-employment act.

In the final analysis, not having “age discrimination” legislation may only encourage more employers to discriminate against older workers.