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Monday, March 18, 2019
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Coming to the End: Mandatory Retirement in Saskatchewan

Most Canadian jurisdictions have now removed or modified their laws relating to mandatory retirement. John Whyte and Justin Leifso in their paper “Coming to the End: Mandatory Retirement in Saskatchewan” analyze this reform from four perspectives – legal, social, economic and human – and question Saskatchewan’s failure to join the trend to end mandatory retirement.

According to Whyte and Leifso, mandatory retirement might be just another dated social structure that once arguably served employer and employee interests but is now seen as robbing individuals of the right to make choices central to their lives. Not only is Canada facing a labour shortage, our understanding of aging - and our actual experience with people in their sixties, and older - tell us that most people remain physically and intellectually vigorous long after the traditional retirement age.

"The Canadian pattern - as a matter of both law and practice - has been to move sharply away from mandatory retirement. This trend reflects a respect for individual self-determination, recognition of the absence of any connection between employment capacity and age 65, and an acknowledgment of the pressing need for experienced and committed workers. For Saskatchewan to continue to stand apart from this trend does not make sense," said Whyte. In Saskatchewan, human rights legislation specifically withdraws protection against age discrimination from all those over 64. This statutory limit on age discrimination is under challenge in a human rights complaint that is now before a Human Rights Tribunal.

In this paper, Whyte and Leifso balance their argument by addressing counterpoints often voiced for retaining mandatory retirement, such as, removing mandatory retirement will push older workers into longer work lives, leaving them little opportunity for retirement; retaining mandatory retirement makes room in the workforce for younger generations; and banning mandatory retirement policies will interfere with contract negotiations and make existing pay-scale arrangements inequitable and unsustainable.

Whyte and Leifso conclude that ending mandatory retirement would be a sign of respect for workers and an affirmation of the dignity of work and its importance to the whole community.

“Coming to the End” is the 15th paper in SIPP’s Briefing Note Series. This series allows the Institute to comment on public-policy issues that affect the people of our community and can be used as an instrument for further discussion and debate.


John D. Whyte and Justin Leifso

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