Programmes available to help firms employ mature workers

We thank Mr Loh Wai Poon ("Help wanted? Look to workers in their 50s"; Monday) and Mr Lionel Loi Zhi Rui ("Determine real reasons for bias against older workers"; Tuesday) for showing concern for our older workers. We agree that more can be done to make workplaces more conducive.

Workplaces can and should be made more ageless through process improvement and/or workplace redesign. We encourage companies to approach the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) U Live for assistance.

Programmes such as the Job Redesign Scheme can help companies defray the cost of process improvement to make their mature workers' jobs easier, safer and smarter.

For example, one of our unionised companies recently introduced a computerised laser etching system, which requires a high degree of visual accuracy, to reduce the stress on mature workers' visual ability.

NTUC U Live has been conducting monthly health and retirement adequacy talks for union members, and job redesign workshops for unionised companies.

Today, more unionised companies are re-employing and hiring mature workers. As of July, 84 per cent of unionised companies surveyed by NTUC U Live were re-employing beyond the age of 65, with 18 per cent of companies having minimally a written re-employment policy to re-employ workers up to the age of 67.

A few companies have even gone beyond 67. This is a significant increase from a year ago, but more can still be done, especially with non-unionised companies.

Our overall experience with unionised companies reinforces our hope that more companies will explore such ageless solutions, enabling mature workers to continue working if they can and want to.

With less reliance on physical attributes, mature workers can continue to be productive even as they age, thereby encouraging employers to keep them employed longer.

Additionally, mature workers will find it easier to learn and perform their tasks, even if these differ from their previous job scopes, thus, increasing their chances of remaining in their jobs.

We also urge all workers to embrace lifelong learning, and upgrade their skills and knowledge continually, for example, through relevant courses at NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) and NTUC LearningHub, to enhance their employability.

This is crucial especially in this ever-changing economic landscape where technology constantly changes the way businesses are run, so that they would not fall victim to joblessness because of skills mismatch.

Besides professional development opportunities, mature job seekers can approach e2i for job placement, job matching and career coaching as well.

Heng Chee How

Deputy Secretary-General

National Trades Union Congress

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2016, with the headline 'Programmes available to help firms employ mature workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe