Ministry of Justice

Frequently Asked Questions
About Eliminating Mandatory Retirement

Effective January 1, 2008 British Columbia eliminated mandatory retirement. Amendments to the provincial Human Rights Code extend protection against age discrimination to those 65 and over. Previously, the definition of age under the Code was 19-64 which allowed mandatory retirement to be imposed on employees 65 and over.

The change supports the December 2006 recommendations of the Premier’s Council on Aging and Seniors’ Issues. The council examined how B.C. can support seniors’ ability to continue as contributing members of society and support their independence and health.

For information on other human rights protections see the main Human Rights Protection web page.

1. Is the legislation retroactive?
No. Former employers are not required to re-employ staff who retired before the legislation came into force.

2. Can people be forced to work past the age of 65?
People will be able to choose to retire whenever they wish. The change is about allowing people to continue to work past age 65 if they desire to do so.

3. Does this apply to both public and private sector employees?
Yes, this legislation means both public and private sector employees will now have the choice to work past 65. Like many jurisdictions in the world, there are many more older people in B.C. who would like to continue to work. The amendment ensures people over 65 have protection from age discrimination and will potentially help employers to retain the corporate memory and experience mature workers possess by enabling them to remain in the workplace past 65.

4. How will this change impact younger workers?
This is about giving mature workers, as well as their younger co-workers, opportunities to contribute to the workplace. While it is a significant change with respect to protection against discrimination on the basis of age, only a small percentage of employees are likely to continue working beyond 65.

5. How do the amendments affect pension plans?
Existing pension rights are protected. Bona fide retirement, superannuation or pension plans will continue to be able to make distinctions on the basis of age, as they do now. Allowing this exemption is necessary to ensure the ongoing operation of these pension plans. It includes the ability to make distinctions in pension plans, such as specifying early and standard retirement ages, which benefit employees.

6. Does ending mandatory retirement affect a person’s access or entitlement to private employer pensions? What about eligibility for Canada Pension Plan benefits?
Access or entitlement to employer-sponsored pensions is unaffected. Provincial changes will not affect entitlement under the Canada Pension Plan, as it is a federal program.

7. How does the legislation affect employee benefits?
The legislation continues to permit age-based distinctions under bona fide group or employee insurance plans, including those that are self-funded by employers or provided by a third party. As is the case in other jurisdictions, age-based distinctions can be made only under insurance-based benefit plans. Employers continue to have discretion regarding the provision of benefits.

8. Does this mean an employer has to accommodate age-related disabilities?
Mature workers will be subject to the same Human Rights Code standard of accommodation as other workers.

9. Are any jobs exempted from this change?
The current exemption provided for bona fide occupational requirements will remain. A bona fide occupational requirement is an employment standard that makes distinctions on certain grounds, including age, but that is allowed under the British Columbia Human Rights Code because of the nature of the employment.

The employer must establish:

  • that the employer adopted the requirement for a purpose rationally connected to the performance of the job;
  • that the employer adopted the requirement in an honest and good faith belief that it was necessary to the fulfilment of that legitimate work-related purpose; and
  • that the requirement is reasonably necessary to the accomplishment of that legitimate work-related purpose. It must be demonstrated that it is impossible to accommodate individual employees without imposing undue hardship on the employer.

All Canadian jurisdictions have bona fide occupational requirement exceptions in their human rights legislation. These exceptions may permit mandatory retirement if the employer can show that the above test for a bona fide occupational requirement has been met.

10. Where can I find more information on the elimination of mandatory retirement?
For more information on the end of mandatory retirement, please see our brochure "Want to Work Past 65? Now You Can Choose!, as well as the information sheets on the human rights protection web pages.