Employees in Ontario will be able to choose when they want to leave the workforce under the province's new law to end mandatory retirement. The law, which passed third and final reading in the legislature yesterday, will come into effect one year after it receives royal assent later this month. "This is all about choice," Labour Minister Steve Peters told reporters.
He said the new law would remove discrimination in the workplace against older workers. Under the present law, workers can be forced to retire at 65. Union leaders and other critics of the legislation have said the government runs the risk of creating two classes of workers because companies will not be required to extend health, disability and life insurance coverage to employees over 64. This raises questions about whether some workers will continue to enjoy such benefits while others could be cut off.
Mr. Peters said the government had to consider costs for employers if they were required to extend benefits beyond age 64. The legislation protects workers' existing rights to pension, early retirement and benefits plans.
"We had to ensure we found some balance," he said.
Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory applauded the new law. However, he added: "We're going to have to watch carefully to make sure people who continue to work are treated in a proper manner."
The government is playing catch-up with several other provinces. Manitoba was the first to abolish mandatory retirement in 1982. It was followed by Alberta, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the federal government.
The number of Ontarians over the age of 65 is expected to climb to 3.5 million from 1.5 million over the next 15 years.