ARCHIVED - New Compulsory Retirement Age for the CF

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Backgrounder / July 9, 2004 / Project number: BG–04.019

As of July 1, 2004, the compulsory retirement age (CRA) for members of the Regular Force and Primary Reserve changed to age 60. Until now, most members of the Regular Force and Primary Reserve have been obliged to retire at 55 years.

The CRA for all new members of the Regular Force and the Primary Reserve will automatically be 60 years. Personnel who were serving on June 30, 2004 will be able to choose to whether to change to CRA 60 or retain their current mandatory retirement age. Both members of the Regular Force and the Primary Reserve will have until one year prior to their current compulsory retirement age to make the decision on changing their CRA (for most members, this means making a decision before their 54th birthday).

The retirement age for other sub-components of the Reserve Force - Cadet Instructors Cadre, Canadian Rangers and Supplementary Reserve – will remain unchanged but are being examined.

What is a compulsory retirement age?

A CRA is simply an institutional milestone that restricts service beyond that age. Canadian Forces (CF) members may retire earlier than CRA. The CRA does not guarantee that a CF member will be given the opportunity to serve to that age. Extensions past CRA will remain possible, under limited conditions, with the authorization of either the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) or the Minister of National Defence (MND).

While CRA is being extended to age 60, health and medical risks past age 60 are being taken into account and a CRA is being maintained to ensure the operational effectiveness of the CF – including the health and safety of CF members, their colleagues, and the Canadian public.

Why the change to CRA 60 ?

The CF is changing the compulsory retirement age to reflect the changes that have occurred in Canadian society and to enable the CF to use the skills of its members for a longer time.

Canadian work patterns have changed. In the past, most Canadians entered the workforce at a young age and worked with the same employer until they reached retirement. People are now entering the workforce at a later age, and the CF is no exception, with many members joining the CF later in life. The Forces also face a shrinking youth population – those aged between 17 and 29 – that is the traditional recruiting base.

In 1981, the average age of a CF recruit was 20; in 1999 it was 23; in 2002 it climbed to 24.5 As a result, as of April 30, 2004, only 802 of 8155 Regular Force members at the Private Recruit and Private Basic level, and only 403 of 1780 Regular Force Officer Cadets, were under the age of 20.

The 55-year upper age limit on service did not permit the older entrants to serve enough time to either maximize their pension, or, in the case of some specialist occupations such as Chaplain, even to earn a reasonable pension.

Changing the CRA will accommodate these new realities. By doing so, the CF is moving into line with similar organizations such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Coast Guard. Similarly, several of Canada's allied western Armed Forces are examining the need for changes to their mandatory retirement ages.

The change will also help the CF to better use its members' skills. Many individuals, especially those in technical occupations, whose skills are in high demand and difficult to replace, are still capable and willing to serve beyond age 55. Moving the compulsory retirement age upward to 60 years will help the CF make maximum use of these individuals' skills and contributions.

How will this change affect the CF?

As with any change to human resource policy, there are some concerns about the impact this will have on the CF.

A January 2002 study of the possible effects of an increased compulsory retirement age reached the following conclusions:

  • Release rates would remain almost unchanged from the current situation;

  • Promotion vacancies would remain stable;

  • There would be a minor reduction in the annual intake requirement; and

  • The age distribution within the CF would remain relatively stable, with only some minor ageing.

Similar recent studies have concluded that members' decisions to leave the CF are more likely to be linked to their career stage, rather than their compulsory retirement age. Career stage includes such factors as years of service, rank, current job and personal issues. As of April 30, 2004, only 2,134, or 3.5% of the Regular Force effective strength, were 50 years or older.

Managing Personnel

There will be no change to the management of terms of service – the process that provides the framework for managing personnel flow within military occupations and the CF in order to maintain an operationally effective force.

In the Regular Force, all offers of continued employment will continue to be subject to merit and the manning requirements of the CF. (Note: all Primary Reserve members are enrolled for an indefinite period and offers of continued employment are not required.) The Chief of the Defence Staff can also recommend the release of officers and direct the release of non-commissioned members any time after they have completed 30 (or more) years of service. These and other human resource management tools will be used to control the flow of personnel through the CF. As a result, it is anticipated that the new CRA will not result in personnel flow problems or the diminishing of career prospects.

Furthermore, in accordance with current government policy, the present cap on pensionable years of service will remain at 35 years. Demographic studies also indicate that for most members this is usually the maximum length of a military career, although they may choose to retire earlier. Very few Regular Force members remain past this maximum pension point, regardless of their age.

Measures are also in place to ensure that the number of promotions is not reduced by the new CRA. These include:

  • Employing members in ‘any occupation' positions assigned to undermanned occupations;

  • Allowing additional promotions above normal levels in selected cases;

  • Possibly employing Chief Warrant Officer/Chief Petty Officer 1s or Master Warrant Officer/Chief Petty Officer 2s in vacant Captain/Lieutenant(Navy) positions; and

  • Commissioning from the ranks.

Health, fitness and performance standards will continue to be applied to ensure that members will still be able to perform their operational roles. As well, members of the CF, including those in their last years of service before CRA, will continue to be subject to postings in accordance with the manning needs of the CF.

These measures will ensure that the operational effectiveness of the Forces is not impaired, that all occupations are properly managed, and that opportunities for promotion are not adversely affected by the change to CRA 60.

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