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Gradual or Flexible Retirement? Is the 20 Hour-Work Week an alternative for Employers Who Want to Retain Retiring Team Members with Valuable Expertise

Retirement is a major life transition that affects both employees and employers. Traditionally, retirement meant leaving the workforce completely and enjoying a leisurely lifestyle. However, in recent years, more and more Canadians are opting for a different approach to retirement: gradual or flexible retirement[1].

Gradual or flexible retirement is a term that describes a variety of work arrangements that allow employees to reduce their hours, responsibilities, or roles as they approach or enter retirement.

For example, some employees may choose to work part-time, such as 20 hours per week, instead of full-time. Others may choose to work on a contract, project, or seasonal basis, instead of on a permanent or regular basis. Some may even choose to switch to a different career, industry, or employer, instead of staying with the same one.


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Gradual or flexible retirement offers many benefits for both employees and employers. Here are some of the main benefits to consider:
For employees, it can help them:

  • Ease the transition from work to retirement
  • Maintain their income and benefits
  • Stay active and engaged
  • Pursue their interests and passions
  • Balance their personal and professional obligations
  • Keep their skills and knowledge updated

For employers, it can help them:

  • Retain experienced and valuable employees
  • Transfer knowledge and skills to younger employees
  • Reduce turnover and recruitment costs
  • Increase productivity and performance
  • Enhance their employer brand and reputation
  • Adapt to changing market and customer needs.

The rising trend of gradual or flexible retirement

Gradual or flexible retirement is not a new phenomenon, but it is becoming more popular and prevalent in Canada.
According to a survey by Morneau Shepell, a leading HR reporting agency, around 60% of Canadian employees plan to work past the traditional retirement age of 65, and 47% of them prefer to work part-time[2].

Another survey by Statistics Canada found that 38% of Canadians aged 55 to 64 who were employed had reduced their usual work hours in the past year, and 22% of them had changed their work schedule or arrangement[3].

There are several factors that contribute to the rising trend of gradual or flexible retirement, such as:

  1. Demographic changes: Canada has an aging population, with more people reaching the retirement age and living longer. This means that there is a larger pool of potential retirees who may want to continue working in some capacity, as well as a smaller pool of younger workers who can replace them.
  2. Economic conditions: Canada has faced various economic challenges in the past decade, such as the global financial crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the rising cost of living. These factors have affected the financial security and stability of many Canadians, who may need or want to work longer to supplement their income and savings.
  3. Social and cultural shifts: Canada has a diverse and dynamic society, with different values, expectations, and preferences when it comes to work and retirement. Many Canadians view work as a source of meaning, fulfillment, and identity, and may not want to give it up entirely. Moreover, many Canadians have multiple roles and responsibilities, such as caregiving, volunteering, or education, that may require them to have more flexibility and control over their work schedule and arrangement.

The challenges of gradual or flexible retirement

Gradual or flexible retirement can be a win-win situation for both employees and employers, but it also poses some implications and challenges that need to be addressed and managed. For instance:

  • Employees need to plan and prepare for their gradual or flexible retirement, such as assessing their financial, health, and lifestyle needs and goals, and communicating their preferences and expectations to their employer and family.
  • Employers need to support and accommodate their employees’ gradual or flexible retirement, such as offering various options and incentives, and updating their policies and practices to reflect the changing needs and preferences of their workforce.
  • Employees and employers need to coordinate and collaborate with each other to ensure a smooth and successful transition, such as defining the roles and responsibilities, setting the expectations and boundaries, and providing the feedback and recognition.

With all these things considered, it’s safe to say that gradual or flexible retirement is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but a customized and individualized one. It requires a mutual understanding and agreement between the employee and the employer, as well as a continuous evaluation and adjustment of the work arrangement.


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Reconsidering retirement plans late in life due to inflation can be stressful.


A Growing Trend

Gradual or flexible retirement is a growing trend in Canada, and a viable alternative for employers who want to retain retiring team members with valuable expertise. It offers many benefits for both employees and employers, but it also entails some implications and challenges that need to be considered and addressed.

By embracing and enabling gradual or flexible retirement, employers can create a more diverse, inclusive, and productive work environment, and foster a long-term and loyal relationship with their aging employees in the years to come.


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