On December 12th, 2005, the Lieutenant Governor James Bartleman gave royal assent to Bill 211, the Ending Mandatory Retirement Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005. Accordingly, mandatory retirement will be illegal in Ontario as of January 1, 2007.
Ontario will now join Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon, which already have similar legislation on the books, which classify mandatory retirement based on age as discriminatory.
The core element of the Bill is the re-definition of “age” in the Human Rights Code. Currently age, for the purposes of discrimination in employment, is defined as more than 18 years and less than 65. This has made it possible for employers to require that employees retire at age 65. Bill 211 revises this provision by removing the upper age parameter of 65. Forced retirement can however still occur in cases where there is a ‘bona fide occupational requirement’.
When this legislation comes into law on January 1, 2007, there will be implications for collective bargaining agreements and other hiring practices. However, our current understanding of Bill 211 indicates that the new legislation will have no material impact on employee benefit plans. So, while the law will not prevent employers from providing employee benefits to employees overage 65, there is no mechanism that forces them to do so. Thus, as relates to employee benefits, Bill 211 will leave the status quo in place.
More information on this issue will no doubt be available in the coming months.