Employment: Treating 50+ years old employees


In our latest employment article Dave Deruytter asks what employers should do with their 50+ years old employees.

Many, particularly large, companies struggle with the question of what to do with the older generation of employees or workers they have. Until a few years ago they could rather easily ‘sweat-out’ the 55-year-olds until they reached the age of 58 or 60. Then, they could put them on a pre-pension scheme until the legal retirement age of 65-year-old. These pre-retirement schemes were often fiscally or socially facilitated. It was common practice in Belgium.

Because state pensions have become unaffordable at those young retirement ages, the pension age has been increased and the conditions for early retirement have been tightened substantially in recent years. Even in Belgium the official retirement age is now 67 and early retirement typically requires at least 42 years of working. On top of that, the conditions for what constitutes a year of working have been tightened too. Before, periods of long illness and even sabbaticals counted for your pension too.

Although 67 years looks old to take one’s retirement, the original age of 65, introduced after the second world war, was at that time the average life expectancy of a man in Belgium. Holding to that logic, then the retirement age for men today should be some 78 years. Men are still at least 11 years better off now.

Research has shown that people who stop working too early more often develop bad habits than those who retire at 65. Subsequently, on average, they pass away before their time. The best thing for a healthy long life is to have a regular occupation at any age. Some of the elders, who have green fingers and a farmer’s spirit, start to plant lettuce and other vegetables in their garden or green house in spring. Then they foster the plants to maturity, eventually harvesting them in summer or autumn. Followed by letting the soil rest in winter, before they start all over again the following spring. A regular activity can just as well be helping to run a club or association, or to do consultancy in your field of work. Then you even add an extra positive component: meeting people. One can also assist his or her children with their work or do the garden, yours or theirs. With age, it may be clever though to outsource some activities, or at least start to do less in general.