Public sector to extend hiring age to 67 from Jan 1 2015

October 3, 201410:36 am438 views
Public sector to extend hiring age to 67 from Jan 1 2015
Public sector to extend hiring age to 67 from Jan 1

SINGAPORE — Days after the Government promised carrots for private companies that voluntarily rehire for two more years their staff who turn 65, the Public Service said yesterday it will take the lead in formalising such an arrangement from next year onwards.

Currently, public agencies are already re-employing eligible officers above the age of 65 — there are about 1,000 such workers now — but the practice will be instituted on Jan 1, benefiting the 800 or so public officers who will turn 65 next year, said the Public Service Division (PSD), one of the largest employers in Singapore with a headcount of 139,000.

“Re-employment allows the Public Service to continue tapping our seniors’ wealth of knowledge and experience. It also allows our older colleagues to remain meaningfully engaged,” said Mr James Wong, PSD’s Deputy Secretary (Policy).

Since 2012, firms have been required under the law to keep staff who hit the statutory retirement age of 62 — and are willing and able to continue working — until they are 65. But there have been calls, chiefly from the labour movement, to raise the re-employment age further to 67 — a move the Government said it supports and will push through, but at an appropriate time.

On Monday, a tripartite committee’s recommendation that firms be incentivised to voluntarily do so ahead of legislative changes was accepted by the Government, which said it will spell out the carrots in next year’s Budget.

The following day, the committee’s chair, Senior Minister of State (Manpower and Health) Amy Khor, pointed out that many companies are not ready to re-employ workers above 65 years old and have asked for more time to adapt.

Welcoming the PSD’s move, the labour movement’s deputy chief Heng Chee How said: “Within the next year or two, I am quite confident that 500 or more firms will agree, and eventually our aim is certainly to get the unionised sector to be a good example.”

The Amalgamated Union of Public Employees’ general secretary Ma Wei Cheng said it has been pushing the Government “for some time now” to continue to re-employ its employees from age 65 to 67. Union members between 62 and 65 years old have expressed their wish to continue working, given that they are still active mentally and physically, he added.

The PSD said the majority of officers re-hired now keep their job duties and pay, although it encourages public agencies to have open discussions on re-employment with officers to help manage expectations as well as understand officers’ concerns and preferences.

“Officers today may request to be re-employed on other job arrangements, which are mutually agreed on by the officer and the agency, taking into consideration officers’ preferences and the availability of suitable positions in the agency. This may include flexible work arrangements such as part-time, job-sharing, project work or other appropriate arrangements,” it said.

“The current re-employment guidelines allow the majority of public officers, especially lower-wage officers, to be re-employed at the same grade and salary.”

Private-sector employers, however, said it is more challenging for them to promise the same job duties and pay for re-employed workers.

Unlike their younger colleagues, some elderly employees may struggle to keep up with the skills needed as work processes change — say, when automation is involved — they noted. Finding alternative posts that are suitable for their age is also not always possible, especially in small and medium enterprises where openings may be hard to come by, they added.

Ms Jennifer Pereira, administrative manager at technology and software firm Oneberry Technologies, said jobs that are less physically demanding, such as deskbound jobs at their command centre, are more suitable for older workers, in contrast to technician roles that require site visits. While the firm is open to the possibility of redeploying technicians to these jobs as they age, there are fewer openings among deskbound jobs, she said.

Laundry Network managing director Chan Tai Pang said older workers have to be trained in using computers, as part of an automation drive to make work processes less physically demanding. Training these workers has to be a gradual process, he said. “Some workers did not even know how to operate a mouse.”


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