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Is mandatory retirement legal for employees?

There used to be a time in Canada when a person was required to retire by a certain age. However, today most provinces and territories have legislation that protects workers from age discrimination at work. Federal employees, too, are protected from age discrimination.

Federal employees

Since December 15, 2012, the federal government has gotten rid of mandatory retirement because it is seen as age discrimination.

Parliament passed the Keeping Canada’s Economy and Jobs Growing Act in 2011, which outlawed the mandatory retirement age for federal employees.

The act specifically amended the Canada Labour Code. The code was amended to make sure that if employees were terminated unwillingly that they would receive termination pay regardless of their age or pension eligibility.

The act also amended the Canadian Human Rights Act and removed the passages that allowed for mandatory retirement.

Provincial and territorial employees

Almost all provinces and territories have gotten rid of mandatory retirement ages.

In addition, provincial and territorial human rights legislation also prohibits age discrimination, including age discrimination in the workplace.

For example, British Columbia eliminated mandatory retirement in 2008. Furthermore, B.C. amended their Human Rights Code to make sure those who are 65 plus years old are protected against age discrimination.

While you cannot be forced to retire because of your age, your employer is allowed to offer incentives in order for you to retire. There are still certain occupations that have age limits, due to safety issues or other dangers. Just as an employer cannot tell you to leave because you’re over 65, you also cannot be compelled to stay at your job if you choose to retire.

In Ontario, the mandatory retirement age was eliminated as of December 2006. The Human Rights Code of Ontario was amended to extend protections to employees 65 and older. The code defines age as 18 years or older. Thus the Code imposes a number of obligations upon employers such as:

  • An employer must ensure that your workplace is free from discrimination, is inclusive, and respects and supports the needs of all its workers, including older employees.
  • An employer must not reject potential employees on the basis of their age, nor can the employer refuse to train them or promote them if they are 65 years old or older;
  • When it comes to downsizing, re-organizing, letting people go, an employer cannot make those decisions based on the age of their employees.

Once again, there are certain occupations where an age limit may apply due to safety or other issues.

In fact, many provinces have rules for certain jobs that still allow the mandatory retirement. For example, for jobs where physical ability is required, such as police work or firefighting, the limit may still be allowed.

There may also be other situations where a mandatory minimum age is allowed, but that is dependent upon the province or territory.

If you have been dismissed and think it may be due to age discrimination, you should consult a lawyer.

Read more:

Government of Canada highlights prohibition of mandatory retirement

 Age Discrimination brochure Ontario