For immediate publication
Toronto - Chief Commissioner Keith Norton today endorsed the government’s introduction of legislation as a positive move towards ending mandatory retirement for older Ontario workers.
"I am very pleased that the government has taken this step to respect the rights of older workers by introducing legislation that will enable individuals to decide for themselves when they wish to retire from the workplace rather than having this decision made for them by their employers," stated Mr. Norton.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission considers mandatory retirement as a form of age discrimination because it involves making an employment decision solely on the basis of age, and not the person’s ability to do the job. The Commission also feels that mandatory retirement undermines older Ontarians’ independence, dignity, participation, and ability to make choices, which is contrary to the values of the Ontario Human Rights Code ("Code").
Older Ontarians raised the issue as important to them during the Commission’s consultation on age discrimination against older Ontarians in the summer of 2000. In its report following the consultation entitled, Time for Action, the Commission recommended that the Code be amended to provide workers age 65 years and over the same human rights protections as others in the workplace. The government’s proposed Bill amends the current definition of "age" in the Code to remove the cap of age 65 for employment purposes.
At the same time, Chief Commissioner Keith Norton cautioned that the removal of the age cap may result in an influx of new cases citing age discrimination in the area of employment stating that, "Although we requested procedural amendments to the Code to help the Commission handle this anticipated increase and the already growing number of new complaints filed each year, I am disappointed to see that the new legislation does not address this issue. In the absence of such amendments, additional resources may be required to cope with the increasing demand on our services."
The proposed legislation does not impact on older employees’ access to available retirement benefits such as company pension plans, the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, or the Ontario Seniors Drug Benefits Program. However, there is concern that employees aged 65 and older may not be entitled to other workplace benefits including disability, medical, dental, or life-insurance benefits, again solely based on their age.
"Further examination of any differential impact on employees 65 years of age or over is required and the Commission may have more to say on this matter," added Mr. Norton.
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