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Editorial

Old dogs, new tricks

/ 12:54 AM May 04, 2017

Age has often been equated with wisdom. But nowhere is this more ignored than in the workplace, where mandatory retirement and early retirement packages have become acceptable ways of sloughing off older workers in favor of new blood.

So widespread is the practice that the Department of Labor and Employment, during a Quezon City job fair on Monday, warned employers not to discriminate against older job seekers, reminding them that the law prohibiting hiring on the basis of age was now in effect.

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Republic Act No. 10911 (Anti-Age Discrimination in Employment Law), which lapsed into law in July 2016, seeks to promote equal employment opportunities to workers by encouraging employers to hire applicants based on their abilities, knowledge, skills and qualifications, rather than age. Regardless of age, employees and workers should also be treated equally when it comes to compensation, benefits, promotion, training and other employment opportunities.

Remember those classified ad job listings that specify that those “35 years and above need not apply”? The law now bans that, and words suggesting preference or limitations that have to do with age. The declaration of age or birth date in the application process is similarly prohibited. Companies violating the law face penalties of from P50,000 to P500,000, or imprisonment of from three months to two years, or both.

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Companies who prefer to hire young workers often cite the liabilities associated with hiring older workers, not least the physical infirmities that come with age that might result in higher medical costs. A higher salary and pension based on their work experience and number of years on the job also means more expense, companies protest.

But they’re forgetting that extensive work experience, skills honed and perfected by years on the job, knowledge and commitment, can help businesses grow. By keeping older workers, companies also do away with the time-consuming learning curve often needed before new and young workers become knowledgeable enough to be left on their own.

Keeping senior workers who are still productive also boosts morale in the company as workers realize how they are still valued by the company that remains as committed to their welfare as they are to its productivity. Working with older folk also helps younger workers improve their people skills, as they become more flexible in adjusting to senior colleagues and more exposed to diversity in the workplace.

Outside the company, such policy translates to a robust economic cycle as older workers, who are still earning, can exercise their purchasing power and contribute significantly to society’s consumption of goods.

Studies, too, suggest that older folk remain healthier—physically, mentally and emotionally—when they are kept busy and their minds active for as long as possible. Because while retirement has often been painted as a time of leisure, free from the stress of deadlines and work pressures, it can also be a restless time as seniors yearn for the productive routine they were accustomed to, a scary period when one feels useless, and an anxious time when the lack of regular income means a scaling back of one’s basic needs and wants.

But RA 10911 is barely a year old, and employers might see it more as an imposition than a social responsibility. There is therefore a need to conduct job clinics and make employers aware of the law to make them more open to change and more aware of the law’s benefits to the company. It wouldn’t hurt either to include during the job clinic, lengthy discussions on general labor standards, occupational safety, health and age discrimination, sexual harassment, and other pertinent labor laws that companies might need to be reminded of.

In the meantime, local government units can sponsor training on job skills to keep seniors more updated about basic expectations in today’s workplace, among them the use of the computer, sending and receiving SMS, sending e-mail, researching online, and so on.

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It’s not true that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks. In fact, research suggests that learning new skills opens up new pathways in the brain that help the elderly hold on to their mental faculties longer, while becoming sharper in their thinking. Sharp enough to keep working, that is.

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