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Majority of baby boomers would opt for semi-retirement if employers only allowed: poll

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The majority of working baby boomers would stay on the job longer if employers allowed them to shift into semi-retirement — but most workplaces don’t provide that option, a new survey suggests.

With unemployment in Canada at record lows and a labour shortage poised to hit critical levels when boomers hang up their hats, semi-retirement could be one way to help manage that crisis.

Since working longer puts more money in people’s wallets when they do retire, that increased spending power would benefit the economy as well.

Conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of staffing agency Express Employment Professionals, the poll found that 76 per cent of Canadian baby boomers respondents said they’d opt for a flexible work schedule if allowed, while 60 per cent would choose reduced hours with reduced benefits.

The online survey of 500 Canadian workers aged 54 to 72 suggests a disconnect between the willingness of the enormous baby boomer cohort to stick around during the labour shortage, and a lack of options for those who’d like a gradual exit from the workplace.

The survey also found that 56 per cent of respondents said they’d like to transition to a consulting-style role, if given the opportunity.

Yet only 30 per cent of the boomers surveyed said their employer offered any sort of semi-retirement option. Additionally, only 36 per cent said their employers had ever brought a former employee out of retirement.

Teresa Pitman says she’d welcome part-time work when she approaches retirement. She’s pictured here with two of her 10 grandchildren: Dexter, left, and Walter, right. (Alison Lee photo)

Teresa Pitman, who works full time as a communications co-ordinator for Family and Children Services of the Waterloo Region, says she’d welcome a semi-retirement arrangement when she’s ready to scale back. 

« I would like to be able to work here part time, and I think that I will continue to have something to contribute, » she said. « I really like the people here that I work for and that I work with. It would be really good to be able to keep that relationship going … but without it being full time. »

Rethinking all-or-nothing retirement

If Pitman wasn’t working full-time, perhaps her hours would be flexible enough to avoid poor road conditions, she says, like the blizzard she drove through on her way to work Friday. 

Her top priority: Spending time with her 10 grandchildren.

« I’d love to have the flexibility to be more available to them, » she said.

Employment experts say we may want to rethink our all-or-nothing definitions of retirement.

Jessica Culo owns several Express Employment franchises in the Edmonton area and is the Canadian spokesperson for the company, which also has locations in the U.S. and South Africa. 

Even though Alberta is still recovering from the provincial recession of 2016 and 2017, she says, even employers there can’t ignore the potential problems posed by a significant increase in retirements in as little as two years from now.

« We all know what it’s like to be in an applicant-short market: It’s expensive, it’s not fun, it inhibits growth, » Culo said. « The leaders of organizations have got to have that foresight. » 

Jessica Culo, of Express Employment Professionals, says baby boomers are willing to mentor younger staffers, but in most cases the structures and practices are just not in place to facilitate that. (Express Employment Professionals)

Putting in place semi-retirement arrangements that could help with the labour shortage will require « being more creative on the side of the employers, » she said.

That could mean allowing older staff members to work flexible hours, a shortened workweek, shorter shifts or working remotely to cut commuting time. It could also include transitioning people into consultancy roles to work on a project basis.

Making room for mentoring

Culo says all of those tools could help address another critical aspect of boomer retirement that the survey highlighted: ensuring critical knowledge doesn’t walk out the door when they do.

Only 40 cent of respondents say they’ve passed at least half of the knowledge required for their positions on to younger staff members, and 51 per cent don’t believe their employers have adequate succession plans.

Culo says boomers are willing to mentor — 82 per cent of poll respondents said as much, in fact — but in most cases they’re not doing it. « Probably because there aren’t really systems or practices or processes that allow for that. »

Rosemary Venne, an associate professor of business at the University of Saskatchewan, says ‘flexibility is not something that employers are good at.’ (University of Saskatchewan)

Part-time workers and consultants could slide nicely into mentoring and training positions, she says, but it may take a mind shift on behalf of management.

« It may mean adding to your overhead by payrolling someone to take on that purely mentorship role. »

In many cases, it won’t even have occurred to employers to extend people’s time at work through semi-retirement, says Rosemary Venne, an associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s Edwards School of Business who specializes in human resources and demographics.

« Flexibility is not something that employers are good at, » she said.

Partial retirement is such an ideal thing because more and more of our self-concept is tied up in work. To give that up when you retire is difficult for some people.– Rosemary  Venne , University of Saskatchewan

A 2011 paper she penned with celebrated demographer David Foot, the author of Boom, Bust and Echo, explained that too little attention has been paid to the impact of increasing life expectancy on retirement policies.

The paper — entitled « The long goodbye » — made the case for partial retirement schemes that remove barriers to going part-time, such as pension disincentives.

That makes sense when you consider that in 1965, when the retirement age was set at 65, the average life expectancy was 71.9 years. Today average life expectancy in Canada is around 80 for men and 84 for women.

Keeping a hand in work can be good for emotional health and life satisfaction as well.

« Partial retirement is such an ideal thing, because more and more of our self-concept is tied up in work, » Venne said. « We’ve increased our educational attainment. To give that up when you retire is difficult for some people. »

In some ways, Teresa Pitman is the ideal retiree. She has spent long portions of her career as a freelancer, and as the author of 18 books about baby care, she can turn to her writing career to keep her busy, engaged and sharp.

« I have writing that I’m quite confident that will always continue. But I do know people a bit older than me who are sometimes a little bit at sea. Their life had been organized around work. I just see that they’re not quite sure what to do with themselves. »

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Anglais

‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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