Committing to rehiring process

Elderly at Raffles Place on Aug 24, 2015.PHOTO: ST FILE

Trapped between a rock and a hard place of uninterested millennials and tighter foreign worker controls, more companies are seeing the benefits of keeping their older workers on for longer.

For the unconverted, it will not be long before labour shortages force their hand. And they will be legally obliged to offer healthy workers re-employment up to the age of 67 from next July, instead of 65 now.

The Straits Times reported yesterday that the transport industry, at least, is well prepared.

Transport operator SMRT announced on Monday that it was extending the re-employment contract age for its bus captains to 69. Slightly more than 3 per cent of the Singapore employees of its rival, ComfortDelGro Corp, are at least 65 years old, while about 10 per cent are aged between 60 and 64.

This helps to ease the manpower shortage faced by an industry which has long struggled with hiring and keeping Singaporean workers. Other industries facing a dearth of younger Singaporean hires - such as engineering and retail - could now follow suit.

Still, it is one thing to re-employ, and another to re-employ well. For instance, while nearly three quarters of unionised firms already rehireworkers over 65, less than a fifth of these have a written policy for re-employment up to 67. This means most are doing so on an ad hoc basis. It would give older workers more certainty if employers commit to re-employment in collective agreements. This should also cover other meaningful details for re-employed older workers such as salary structures, leave and medical benefits.

Companies worried about productivity should also look to redesign jobs for older workers. This could mean automating jobs that were once done manually, or having more flexible working hours. A key part of redesign should be placing them as mentors to younger colleagues, which could help retain the latter.

But older workers have a part to play, too, in keeping companies viable, whether through constant skills upgrading or staying fit. They must earn their place at the table like any other employee.

Olivia Ho

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2016, with the headline 'Committing to rehiring process'. Subscribe