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Ontario Government to Ban Mandatory Retirement
June 10, 2005

The Ontario Government has announced legislation to ban mandatory retirement at age 65. The new law is not expected to be passed until this fall and will include a one-year transition period to allow employers time to adapt.

The proposed legislation will amend Ontario’s Human Rights Code to make the age discrimination provisions applicable to individuals 65 and over. Currently, the Ontario Code does not prohibit an employer from requiring an employee to retire at age 65. About 100,000 people in Ontario turn 65 each year, and some 4,000 of those are expected to keep working after the change takes effect.

The legislation contains an exception for police officers, firefighters and other employees where physical ability or safety is a factor. Employers may still require these individuals to retire at age 65.

Ontario joins several other Canadian provinces that have banned or are seeking to ban forced retirement at age 65. Mandatory retirement at age 65 is generally prohibited under human rights legislation in Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec and Prince Edward Island. New Brunswick’s Government also recently announced that it plans to ban mandatory retirement.

In British Columbia, mandatory retirement at age 65 remains permissible for private sector employers under BC’s Human Rights Code. Public sector employers are subject to both the Code and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A recent decision of the B.C. Court of Appeal held that public sector employers must be prepared to defend their mandatory retirement policies as a justifiable infringement of equality rights under the Charter. As such, public sector employers should be wary of imposing blanket mandatory retirement policies without careful consideration of the justification for such policies.