Helicopters Magazine

Features Procedures Safety & Training
The Aging Workforce

June 11, 2007  By Lynda J. Murdock

While your business today may be thriving, if you have not recently assessed the demographics of your workforce, now is the time to take inventory and do some forward thinking.

While your business today may be thriving, if you have not recently
assessed the demographics of your workforce, now is the time to take
inventory and do some forward thinking. There are fundamental changes
happening in the demographics of the workplace. The oldest of Canada’s
baby boomers, the largest group in Canadian history, are turning 60 and
are on the verge of retirement. Concurrently, at the other end of the
demographic scale, young people are not entering the aviation industry
in sufficient numbers to meet the growing demand for pilots.

the realities of our aging workforce, employers will benefit from
proactively identifying the level of exposure that the changing
demographics may bring to your business. As with any skilled
profession, aviation is acutely dependent upon the quality and
experience of its workforce. As employees age, a number of factors may
contribute to an increased need for work-life balance. For example,
aging workers may experience personal health problems, declining
physical capabilities and energy levels, stress due to keeping up with
rapid changes in technology, and increased family care responsibilities.

of skilled workers may become a critical issue and in order to survive,
employers must be proactive. Understanding the challenges faced by your
aging workforce, and adapting your culture to meet their needs, may be
the key to a successful working relationship. Workplaces will
increasingly need to provide an environment that will accommodate the
needs of the aging worker.

Begin by ensuring that there is no
age discrimination in your human resource practices regarding
recruitment, training, work arrangements and retention. Also, utilize
your older workers where possible as trainers/mentors, as they are the
most valuable resource to transfer knowledge and corporate memory to
younger recruits. Try to offer flexible work schedules and arrangements
that facilitate retention of experienced workers. And lastly, consider
a phased-in retirement plan. A survey conducted in the US showed that
three out of four workers aged 51 to 61 would prefer to reduce their
hours gradually than to stop working all at once.


The good news
for many aviation employers is that boomers appear to be sticking
around, giving operators ongoing access to experienced senior
personnel. Many employees want meaningful and satisfying work beyond
the traditional retirement threshold, and others simply do not have
enough retirement savings. Also, improved working conditions and
equipment have helped, especially for helicopter pilots.


labour laws do not specify the retirement age for employees, except in
the case of some professions such as airline pilots, military
personnel, judges and firefighters. Forcing an employee to retire
because of age is an issue covered by human rights acts.The provisions
covering mandatory retirement vary from one jurisdiction to another,
with major changes happening as recently as December, where in Ontario,
mandatory retirement ended on Dec. 12.

However, since aviation
is a federally regulated industry, it is covered by the Canada Labour
Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act (“the Act”). According to these,
mandatory retirement is permitted in some instances. For example, it is
not a discriminatory practice under the Act to terminate an
individual’s employment when he/she has reached the “normal age of
retirement for employees working in similar positions” or if mandatory
retirement is based on a “bona fide occupational requirement.” Many
airlines worldwide have a mandatory retirement age of 60 for their
pilots, which has become a controversial issue – many feel this
‘earlier-thannormal’ retirement is outdated. Due to impending worker
shortages, a recent submission by ICAO has suggested raising the
retirement age at airlines worldwide.

Depending on the
employer’s retirement policy, employees may work beyond the age of 65
and may apply for and receive their CPP pension. Or, they may choose
not to apply for CPP and continue to contribute to CPP until age 70.
Conversely, employees may retire between 60 and 65 and receive their
CPP, which will be permanently adjusted by 0.5% for each month before
their 65th birthday.

The future looks promising for the
expansion of rotary-wing aviation worldwide. Therefore, in an industry
that looks set for continued growth, now more than ever, employers will
not only need to be successful at recruiting new employees, but also at
retaining experienced senior workers. The future of your business will
depend on it.


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