Speech in Parliament – 2nd Reading of the Retirement & Re-Employment (Amdt) Bill on 9/1/17
Madam Speaker, I rise in support of this Bill which will extend the re-employment age from the current 65 to 67 from 1 July this year. Besides this extension, two other key amendments will be effected.
First, is the repeal of Section 5 of the current Act which effectively means abolishing the provision which had allowed employers to reduce up to 10% of salary once an employee reaches the age of 60 years.
Second, an employer who finds suitable employment for an employee (who is supposed to be re-employed) with another employer is considered to have fulfilled his obligation under the Act.
The extension of re-employment age is a welcome move by our unions, union leaders, union members and workers as this is something NTUC and the Labour Movement has been lobbying for. This issue is of urgency and importance especially with our ageing populace as it will provide our workers who are keen and able to continue working the opportunity to be re-employed until the age of 67.
I applaud the tripartite partners for their untiring efforts in reviewing and improving the current Act. This set of amendments and the upcoming tripartite guidelines were arrived at through heavy discussions and robust negotiations and will benefit ALL employees, whether low wage workers or professional, managers and executives.
Although this deck of amendments is a positive step forward, how it is executed and rolled out is vital.
I ask that respective tripartite partners play their part to ensure its success.
With our tight labour market and stagnating employment growth, employers play the most important role in having not just fair but progressive practices in the hiring of the not-so-young workers especially the re-employment of workers.
In my regular ground engagements with workers especially PMEs, I still hear of instances where workers are confronted with ageism. Although not rampant and good work has been done by TAFEP, I believe we can do more to not just minimise but eradicate all forms of ageism.
In some instances, employers must actively invest in rethinking how best to re-deploy their mature workers to fully leverage on their expertise.
In other instances, it may be imperative for employers to re-design the job and/or workplace to make the job easier, safer and smarter for our ageing workforce.
This can be achieved by embracing disruption, technology and innovation through re-creating jobs and building up a quality workforce so as to increase productivity and achieve inclusive quality growth.
The government has funded and rolled out a series of initiatives and funding such as WorkPro including special employment credit and additional credits to support the hiring of mature and older workers.
I urge government to continue these schemes and fundings, especially those that are due to expire and even enhance them bearing in mind we are confronted with a silver tsunami.
I have previously raised in this House for the increase of the Employment Assistance Payment (EAP for short) and am glad that we will be seeing a positive adjustment in this respect.
EAP has to be regularly reviewed upwards to keep pace with rising median wages. EAP abuse must be closely watched and not become an easy tool or back-door exploited by employers as an easy way out to absolve themselves of their obligation to re-employ the workers.
I urge MOM to also pay a close watch at any cases of abuse or indiscriminate utilization of the new provision where employers can transfer the re-employment obligation to another employer and discharge themselves of responsibility.
This is especially so when the terms, conditions, environment and nature of work in the new job vastly differ from what they had been employed in.
Workers / Unions
Workers preparing for re-employment too have to continue to do their part to stay ready, relevant and resilient. Ready with new skills, relevant to the new jobs and also resilient to new changes.
Madam Speaker, I support the amendments but we need to rethink re-employment.
We must move away from re-employment for the sake of statutory compliance to people development, productivity growth and taking active steps to change stereotypical perceptions on age, talent, productivity and compensation in every organisation.
I want to make a special call for our tripartite partners to work closely together to ensure the spirit and intent of these amendments are executed well and thoroughly so as to achieve its desired outcomes.
More importantly, society plays the most crucial role in how we as one community and one country, view and treat older workers and embrace an ageing population. Not just acknowledging and accommodating the ageing workforce but proactively accepting and appreciating every worker regardless of age!
Mindsets of our tripartite partners as well as society need to change.
With that I support the Bill.