Ontario to end mandatory retirement

By Doug Watt | June 7, 2005 | Last updated on June 7, 2005
2 min read

(June 7, 2005) The Ontario government is introducing legislation that would end mandatory retirement, the province’s labour minister announced on Tuesday.

“People are healthier and living longer so it is unfair to insist that they stop working simply because they turn 65,” said Chris Bentley.

“Ending mandatory retirement would allow workers to retire based on lifestyle, circumstance and priorities,” the minister added. “We listened to the needs and concerns of business, labour and others who have consulted with us and are doing this in a way that protects existing rights to pension, early retirement and benefit plans.”

If passed, the legislation would amend Ontario’s human rights code, which currently does not protect people aged 65 and over from forced retirement.

The proposed legislation will not take effect until one year after it receives royal assent, to allow businesses a transition period. “Some employers would need to reconfigure their employment policies and programs,” the province says.

Also, Ontario will continue to allow mandatory retirement where it can be justified on “bona fide occupational requirement” grounds determined under the human right code, such as an employment requirement or qualification that is necessary for the performance of essential job duties.

Ending mandatory retirement would not have an impact on pension benefits already earned, Ontario says, and employees could continue membership in pension plans and accrue benefits past age 65 subject to service or contribution caps.

In addition, the change will not affect eligibility to receive the CPP, OAS or GIS at age 65.

Ontario is not the first province to end mandatory retirement — Manitoba, Quebec, Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Yukon have taken similar steps, as have a number of other countries, including the U.S. and Australia.

“Experiences in other jurisdictions indicate that ending mandatory retirement has had little impact on the labour market,” the province says. In Ontario, only about 4,000 people a year are expected to take advantage of the change.

Ontario’s announcement sparked immediate reaction, both positive and negative. Michael Doucet of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations called the legislation a “significant victory,” but expressed concern over the lengthy timeline for ending mandatory retirement.Union leaders expressed disappointment over the move. “For most working people, ending mandatory retirement creates a risk that employers will continue their attacks on long-established pension benefits while introducing tests to decide if workers of any age are fit to do their jobs,” says CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan.

“Minister Bentley and others keep raising the issue of workers who cannot afford to retire either because they have earned low incomes or do not have pension plans,” Ryan added. “Those are serious issues that have to be addressed in a real way. Ending mandatory retirement doesn’t do it.”

Filed by Doug Watt, Advisor.ca, doug.watt@advisor.rogers.com


Doug Watt