The name of the statutory act that provides for minimum retirement age should be changed.
Today it is called the “Retirement and Re-Employment Act”. The wordings of the title and the content of the Act are problematic, no thanks to semantics.
The word retirement, to a Singaporean, immediately brings to mind financial adequacy. Then, it brings to mind CPF withdrawal. Both of these things have nothing to do with the purpose of the law: Which really is to protect against discrimination.
The mischief that the law is trying to fix, is the termination of services of an employee because of his mature age, by borrowing the concept of “retirement”.
It prevents a staff from being fired, under the excuse of retirement. It provides remedies against unlawful dismissal on grounds of age.
It is a good piece of law, with good intent but because of the way it is worded, people reject it! Employers who want an easy way to terminate staff would be laughing their socks off!
This poor wording has created misunderstanding between the government’s intent and the perception of the people.
It is so easy to assume the statute to mean these things:
a.) Prevention from retirement (clearly incorrect)
b.) Prevention of access to CPF (incorrect, you get your CPF at 55)
c.) Increase of working age (whatever that means)
d.) Temasek and/or GIC needs to keep your CPF (ridiculous. refer to point b. above)
These misunderstandings are manifested in the familiar complaints: “Wah, gahmen want us to work until we die ah”! And also the famous “Wah lau, CPF money cannot take out again lor!”
Neither of those complaints make sense. Ask someone whom had made those remarks to explain what it means…and chances are he will have no idea.
All this can be resolved with a simple tweak of words.
On the other hand, the Act does say that by the time you get to age 62, the company does have the right to retire you. They must Re-employ you until age 67, but that’s it. Beyond that age, they have a right to strike you off the pay-roll.
You may then rightfully ask why not repeal the law? Is it not better if we decide our own retirement age?
We will have another problem if the law turns silent. Anything that is not in legislation, means that people are free to do.
If the Act is repealed, then employers are free to define the age of retirement; this could be 40, 50 or even 30, if they wished to keep their workforce very young.
So for the government’s sakes, it is in the best interests for them to re-name the Act and re-word its provisions. It needs to divorce from the layman’s understanding, which is commonly linked to financial freedom.
Perhaps it can be called the “Responsible Retirement and Re-Employment Act”. Or the “Protection of Mature Workers Act”.
I’m sure the Ministry of Law scribes are at no loss of words.