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Charity backs retirement contracts

Retirement contracts could help Bermuda find a “happy place” where businesses can be successful without overlooking older workers, according to the director of charity Age Concern.

Claudette Fleming said younger workers are often preferred because they provide cheaper labour and can undertake more physically demanding tasks, resulting in older workers frequently losing out.

She suggested introducing retirement contracts, where employees do not necessarily have to retire at 65, but could take on reduced hours or a reduced workload.

“I think this is a brilliant way to negotiate how older people can remain in the workplace without being let go before they are mentally and physically ready,” she said, adding that some companies already offer these contracts.

Dr Fleming spoke to The Royal Gazette after a grandmother who is in her early sixties, detailed her battle for financial survival [see front page story].

“It's very challenging for older workers to find work,” Dr Fleming said. “The way the economy is structured at the moment, doesn't lend itself to hiring older people.”

She said this is because it is cheaper to hire less experienced workers, even though older workers may at times bring more consistency, experience and dedication.

But Dr Fleming noted that it is not just workers over the age of 65 who struggle to find work, with even those in their forties experiencing difficulties.

“We are going to have to find a happy place in order to move past this place where we are,” she said. She added that there is no redress for older people “to challenge why you are not being considered”.

But she said there would need to be some give and take on behalf of the employer, as well as older people to adapt to the likes of technological advances and make way for the younger generations.

“It really is an exercise in compromise,” she stressed. “Older people want to work but they may not be willing to face the demands of the market. We've got to have them adjust a bit.”

The grandmother who spoke to this newspaper is desperately seeking work after running out of funds since using her pension to help cover her critically ill daughter's medical costs and pay her mortgage.

“It can be expensive, as this lady is finding, to retire in Bermuda and if through an emergency or lack of planning one finds that they do not have access to the income they once had, one can become destitute in their old age,” Dr Fleming said. “It is difficult in these scenarios to determine just how much discretion an individual has if an illness consumes our financial resources.”

Not being 65 and without getting her contributory pension, Dr Fleming said “it would almost be impossible to make ends meet”.

In terms of finding work, Dr Fleming suggested Mrs A use “an array of strategies” including her independent job search, considering companies more likely to hire older workers, and to seek out the assistance of the Department of Workforce Development. A temp agency could also help her get a foot in the door to a more permanent position, she added.

Dr Fleming also recommended she pursue opportunities to get her out of debt in the long-term by re-evaluating selling her assets, reducing her expenses further, or exhausting everything until she can actually qualify for Financial Assistance.

However, Dr Fleming also noted that “there are people who are in a worse situation”, who have no assets at all.

“We come across cases like this who are not quite there yet — they are the poor among us.

“Because you're not yet 65, you don't even qualify for services like Ageing and Disability Services.

“Age Concern could provide immediate support, but as a charity cannot sustain ongoing support.”

Dr Fleming encouraged Mrs A not to give up hope and to reach out to the charity, which she said would be happy to sit down with her and discuss her options.

Ready to help: Dr Claudette Fleming, of Age Concern, says keeping older people in the workforce requires compromise

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Published August 18, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 18, 2016 at 7:41 am)

Charity backs retirement contracts

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