While Government is seeking to make changes to allow officers in the Barbados Defence Force (BDF) to continue serving after reaching the compulsory age of retirement, one Senator has called for more protections for public and private sector workers who are nearing retirement age as well.
Independent Senator Julian Hunte, who said the Defence (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was forward thinking in nature, contended that persons should not be forced to retire when they are still performing their jobs at high standards.
Speaking during Wednesday’s debate in the Senate on the legislation that would allow retired officers to still serve the BDF as reserves until the age of 65, he noted that outside the armed forces, employees nearing retirement age often encounter difficulties, including getting monies owed to them.
“I am considering the value that can be adduced from the steps Government is taking with respect to this Bill, as far as creating an ethos in the country where we do not just discard employees because they have reached some particular age. So, when we look at the state of affairs as we find them today, the Defence Force has what is a default retirement age; in Barbados, even in the private sector, there is the operation of what is in fact a default retirement age – 65,” Hunte said.
“Even though we would have had amendments of the National Insurance legislation that have changed the pensionable age, steps have not been taken in a manner that has been sweeping enough to address the gap created between employment policies of a lot of employers, and what employees are entitled to, as far as their pension rights under the National Insurance Act.”
“If they want to get the maximum benefit from their National Insurance pension, not only do they have to wait until they reach age 67 to do so but they are doing that in a context where employers are telling them when they reach the age of 65 they are being retired [and] they have to go,” he added.
Senator Hunte suggested that the Defence (Amendment) Bill, 2021 could serve as a blueprint for future legislation that aims to curb the practice of age discrimination within the workplace.
“I am hoping that the value [of this Bill being passed], beyond the immediate value to those qualifying by virtue of their membership of the Barbados Defence Force . . . is that the message that can reasonably be taken from it across the employment landscape in Barbados is that we need to stop putting employees out to pasture just because they reach a particular age,” he insisted.