askST: Why can't rehiring of employees who turn 62 be mandatory?

Reader Michael Goh wrote in to askST: " Why can't rehiring of employees who turn 62 years old be mandatory?"

Manpower correspondent Toh Yong Chuan answered.

Some labour policies can, and ought, to be made mandatory, such as compulsory 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 older workers at 62, companies will stop hiring the not-so-old workers 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 just 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. The offer can be for the worker to remain in the same job, or move to a different job.

Elderly men at Raffles Place. PHOTO: ST FILE

This is understandably not ideal for workers who want to keep working after age 62 without losing their 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.

On the other hand, the right for workers to have a job after age 62, unfortunately, cannot be a right that the law imposes on employers.

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