SINGAPORE'S largest employer, the Public Service Division (PSD), is throwing its weight behind the national push to eventually raise the re-employment age to 67.
From Jan 1 next year, eligible public servants will be offered re-employment after they turn 65, up to the age of 67.
The move will benefit about 800 officers who will turn 65 each year over the next three years, said the PSD yesterday.
The public service employs 139,000 officers. Of them, about 1,000 are older than 65 and are already re-employed.
The announcement was welcomed by labour chief Lim Swee Say yesterday as a signal for companies in the private sector to do the same for their own workers.
The PSD's move came three days after the Government said that it will, from next year, encourage more firms to rehire workers past the age of 65 by giving incentives to those who do so.
Public service officers who reach the statutory retirement age of 62 are currently offered re- employment up to the age of 65. This is provided for in the law.
Public agencies are already voluntarily re-employing eligible officers - who want to continue working and can contribute to the work of their agencies - beyond the age of 65, said the PSD. So, yesterday's announcement formalises such arrangements. Eligible officers who wish to continue working can do so on the same job with the same pay and benefits, if the job is available.
Otherwise, they will be helped to find suitable jobs within or outside their agency. If no position is available, the agency will pay them an amount to tide them over while they look for another job.
Unionists like Amalgamated Union of Public Employees general secretary Ma Wei Cheng applauded the news, and the speed at which it will take effect. With the change, older workers will be rehired on a more regular and less ad-hoc basis, he said. This will give them greater peace of mind.
Among the 800 who will benefit next year is National Parks Board senior tree inspector Mathichandran Ramakrishnan, 64.
Said the certified arborist, who has been re-employed on a yearly basis since he turned 62: "I didn't think about whether I would get to keep working. I left everything to fate. But now, I'm very happy that I can continue to work past 65 in this job, which I enjoy a lot."
Mr Lim, National Trades Union Congress secretary-general, told reporters at an awards ceremony yesterday that the PSD's move had a "very strong signalling effect" on the private sector, and will encourage them to get on board.
He said: "Raising the re- employment age to 67 is going to happen some time in the future, even though we are not ready to pass the legislation today."
When that happens, it will be mandatory for firms to offer to rehire workers after they turn 65. They now do so voluntarily.
So, it is important for companies to begin to adjust policies for older workers now, so the transition can take place smoothly.
Employers are open to rehiring older workers but are worried about costs, such as wages and medical bills.
Responding to concerns over costly health-care benefits, Mr Lim pointed to the proposed MediShield Life, which he said would ease the burden on employers and better protect workers.
Separately, Singapore National Employers Federation executive director Koh Juan Kiat said companies tend to be more cautious about rehiring workers over the age of 65 as their business requirements may change each year, depending on economic conditions.
But he was confident that more bosses will do so, as feedback from those who have done so has been largely positive.
Additional reporting by Cheryl Faith Wee
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.