CANADA - The Ontario government has introduced legislation to parliament that would end mandatory retirement at age 65.
Ontario is not the first province to move to outlaw mandatory retirement - Manitoba scrapped the law in 1982 and it no longer exists in Quebec or Yukon.
“People are healthier and living longer so it is unfair to insist that they stop working simply because they turn 65,” said labour minister Chris Bentley. “Ending mandatory retirement would allow workers to retire based on lifestyle, circumstances and priorities.”
The move follows consultation by the Dalton McGuinty-led government in September last year. If passed, mandatory retirement would continue to be allowed only where there is a qualification necessary for the performance of essential job duties, justifiable under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Speaking in parliament, Bentley said the legislation reflected a shift in attitudes and an ageing population.
“Someone who is 64 years, 364 days old does not become disposable just because a calendar page flips,” he said.
“Back in 1996, age became a prohibited ground of discrimination in employment. But not for individuals 65 years of age or older. While that was considered appropriate in 1996, we don’t consider it to be so today. Ontario, like many other jurisdictions, currently has an ageing workforce. Mandatory retirement is an outdated concept in the context of a society where we live longer and healthier lives.”
But the New Democratic Party (NDP) has vowed to fight the legislation, saying seniors deserve the right to retire with dignity “sooner, not later”.
“New Democrats believe workers should have the choice to retire earlier, with dignity, with a good pension,” said NDP leader Howard Hampton. “Dalton McGuinty has a different vision - penion-less seniors spending their golden years toiling for minimum wage at Home Depot.”
He added: “Real choice in retirement will only exist with real pension reform that guarantees real long term income security for Ontario seniors. Our parents and grandparents have fought hard to create strong pensions so future generations could retire sooner, not later. We should take up their struggle and help workers retire earlier, with dignity, with a good pension - not design new ways to make people work longer and harder for less.”
The proposed legislation would build in a one-year transition period to allow employers to prepare for the change and take effect one year after receiving Royal assent.
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