What’s the impact of older workers in the workplace?

“It’s not just what happens if they stay, it’s what happens if they leave,” suggested Ofelia Isabel, managing director with Towers Watson, speaking Tuesday at the Association of Canadian Pension Management’s session The Impacts of Older Workers on the Workplace and Pension and Benefits Design in Toronto.

Part of the issue is just how employers will transfer knowledge from the boomers to the millennials in their workforce, she continued.

In a recent Towers Watson survey, about 68% of employers said it was difficult to find employees with the critical skills needed.

But Isabel noted this is good for employers because they can put programs in place to support older employees’ transitioning into retirement over time to ensure business continuation, workforce predictability and risk mitigation.

However, Marcel Théroux, a partner with Mercer, was not as positive. “In my universe, the older worker is expensive and unproductive,” he said.

The labour force participation rate for 65- to 69-year-olds more than doubled from 2000 to 2013, Théroux said.

But employers can’t simply get rid of their older workers—without good reason.

According to the Human Rights Code, people must be treated equally, and the code prohibits the discrimination of age in employment, said Jessica Bullock, a partner with Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP. The exception, she said, is a bona fide reason where cost, source of funding and any health/safety requirement is an issue.

But there are some older employees an employer wants to keep and some it doesn’t. How do employers tackle this?

It’s individual performance, said Isabel. “It’s the management of the individual and the skills you need as a company, and training and enabling managers to have that conversation.”

But Théroux is not sold on individualism. “There is no HR, it’s HR custodians—policies come from afar and that is profit.”

There is no room for individualization or assessing individuals, he explained. In reality, he continued, the yardsticks used are ready-made to fit people in.

The challenge, Isabel said, is to make the business case for what will make the best solution, what will make the business successful. “And older workers play a role in making a business successful.”

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Copyright © 2021 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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