Some firms yet to have policies for new rehiring age

Some firms yet to have policies for new rehiring age

CHANGE is coming, but some employers have yet to put in place policies to adapt to legislation that will compel them to offer re-employment to older workers up to age 67.

Many companies said they are open and want to hire and keep older workers, but not all have actually thought about how to do so.

Bosses and human resource directors of about a dozen companies said the job functions and salary scales of older staff need to be redesigned. Some older employees also have to be retrained to ensure their skills are updated.

Those most ready are companies in sectors struggling for manpower such as restaurants, hotels and hospitals.

Mr Brenton Ong, human resource director of Concorde Hotel, said the hotel has been looking at the pool of older workers as a viable source of manpower for years. "We try to fit their schedules, as some older workers have family commitments. We also invest in technology such as bigger computer screens to make things easier for older administrative staff," he said.

Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said in an interview last week that changes in the law to raise the re-employment age to 67 will kick in two to three years from now.

Currently, companies are required by the law to offer re-employment to eligible workers when they turn 62, up to the age of 65. National Trades Union Congress deputy secretary-general Heng Chee How backed Mr Tan's comments, saying that employers should "quickly do whatever is necessary to re-employ their workers beyond 65".

He also hoped that the incentives, which will be announced next year to help companies adapt to the new re-employment laws, will help not just in costs, but also in re-designing jobs and skills.

But not all companies are ready, especially those in sectors such as information technology (IT) and engineering, which have not yet been confronted with the need to employ older workers.

"We need digital natives, not migrants, for sophisticated computer programs... however, we need to get ready for an ageing workforce," said Mr Brandon Lew, head of HR operations at information technology firm T-Systems. Most of T-Systems' 120 employees are in their 30s.

Other bosses are grappling with issues such as allowing for retention of experienced staff while ensuring that the younger workers can continue to move up.

"The up and coming leaders will have to wait longer. It may lead to a retention issue," said Mr Tay Cheng Hoo, human resource director of German electronics company Rohde & Schwarz, which has a few workers turning 60 next year.

Mr Melvin Tan, managing director of engineering and construction services company Cyclect, who hires 30 senior engineers in their 50s and 60s, said there is no easy solution. "We need to keep growing our business and creating more roles for our staff so that the younger staff will have a chance to move up," said Mr Tan.

For other employers, the worry is rising costs.

"The fact is cost goes up when hiring older workers, and their productivity may not be as high. It is important to study the impact on the bottom lines during these two to three years before the law is changed," said Singapore Business Federation's chief operating officer Victor Tay. Some older workers are happy just to get a job.

Madam C.P. Lum, 65, used to work as a contract counter staff member in the civil service until two years ago. When her contract was not renewed, she took up jobs such as retail assistant and cafe service crew member. "It was quite a big change for me. But I told myself not to be choosy. Not many companies are willing to hire older workers," she said.

ameltan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on December 16, 2014.
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