Why can't employers be forced to rehire staff at 62?

Those who make late-career changes will be affected if such a law is passed

Reader Michael Goh asked: "Why can't rehiring of employees who turn 62 years old be mandatory?" Manpower Correspondent Toh Yong Chuan answers.

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.

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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2016, with the headline 'Why can't employers be forced to rehire staff at 62?'. Print Edition | Subscribe