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Accountant Barry Witkin, 78, works in business development for his son’s growing company, StickerYouInc. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Accountant Barry Witkin, 78, works in business development for his son’s growing company, StickerYouInc. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Benefit plans a hot topic as more over-65 workers stay on the job Add to ...

There’s a new wrinkle in Canadian workplaces: the rapid growth of the over-65 employee population.

“Better health, the elimination of mandatory retirement and economic necessity mean that many Canadians are working past the traditional retirement age of 65,” human resources firm Aon Hewitt says in a new report on delayed retirement.

This is a welcome development for employers that value the skills, experience and institutional knowledge of their most senior employees, “people who have had relationships with your customers for 30 years,” says Tim Clarke, chief innovations officer in Aon Hewitt’s Canadian health and benefits consulting practice.

However, this trend will also force employers to rethink benefit plan policies to accommodate the needs of these older workers and minimize the risk of age-discrimination complaints, Mr. Clarke said.

The firm recently surveyed 170 employers to find out how many older hands they have on deck. Eight per cent reported that employees aged 65-plus now account for more than 5 per cent of their work forces. In five years, however, 45 per cent of employers expect that between 5 and 10 per cent of their employees will fall into that post-65 age category.

The way Toronto-based professional accountant Barry Witkin sees it, if you love what you are doing and have a contribution to make, why quit?

Having wound down his company HR50 Inc., a specialized recruitment firm for the 50-plus age group, Mr. Witkin now works as a business development consultant for his son Andrew’s rapidly growing enterprise, StickerYou Inc., which custom-designs stickers, labels, decals and logos for the small-business market.

Mr. Witkin, who just turned 78, attends trade shows across the United States. He was also recently pressed into service making deliveries in the company car – a Kia bedecked in the company’s products – when the young driver returned to school.

“People were looking at the car, looking at the stickers. It was actually a lot of fun,” says Mr. Witkin, who earlier in his career was a partner in the accounting firm BDO Dunwoody.

For Mr. Witkin, work brings a sense of fulfilment. “I will keep working as long as I am enjoying it and my health is fine.”

While Aon Hewitt’s study focuses on what employers should be doing to meet the needs of growing numbers of employees who want to stay beyond 65, human resources firm Morneau Shepell Inc. is looking at what employers can do for the majority who would prefer to retire and do something other than work for the balance of their lives.

“Some people may stick around longer because they are worried that they do not have enough savings for retirement,” with health-related costs a key financial concern for two-thirds of the more than 1,000 working Canadians recently surveyed by Morneau Shepell, Paul Sywulych, vice-president of the firm’s innovation centre, said in an interview.

Morneau Shepell has just launched what it describes as Canada’s first online health and life insurance benefits marketplace for retirees – offering a range of benefits such as travel insurance, dental and medical coverage.

Employers that subscribe to the new plan, called MyFuture, can pick up all of the benefit costs for their retirees, a portion of the costs, or simply give them free access to information on the post-retirement benefits available to them at a range of price points, Mr. Sywulych said.

Whether employees opt for early retirement, typical retirement at the age of 65 or delayed retirement, benefits have become a hot topic in human resources circles.

Mr. Clarke said many employers are ill prepared for the rapid growth of the over-65 employee population. The concept that benefits coverage should end when employees turn 65 is outmoded, he said, adding that employers should revisit their policies.

“Let’s try to get ahead of it rather than waiting until your 68-year-old CFO decides to file a human-rights challenge because he doesn’t have long-term-disability benefits.”

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