AFTER more than three years in the works, it has finally come to pass.

The move to make it mandatory for companies to offer workers re-employment beyond the statutory retirement age of 62 will kick in on Jan 1 next year, after Parliament gave the greenlight yesterday.

The Retirement Age (Amendment) Bill, which the House passed, still requires the finishing touch of the President's signature before it becomes law. But that's largely a formality.

The tripartite partners - the government, the National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore National Employers' Federation - have given it their blessings and made 'good progress' in preparing the ground.

They have drawn up and updated the guidelines for re-employment - and these will be gazetted as a companion piece to the new Retirement and Reemployment Act.

The civil service has also come up with its re-employment guidelines which it will put into practice in July before the new law kicks in.

Egged on by the tripartite partners, many companies have already moved to extend employment to workers beyond 62. In moving the bill yesterday, Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong said that nearly two-thirds of the companies his ministry polled in 2009 had done that.

But still many more companies - especially the non-unionised and small and mid-sized firms - continue to take a wait-and-see stance - and they have to act soon.

They must, at least, put in place the re-employment practices, including a proper performance appraisal system, before Jan 1, 2012.

The tripartite and government guidelines will be very useful - and the companies can also turn to the Ministry of Manpower, SNEF or NTUC for help.

Re-capping the move to make re-employement compulsory yesterday, Mr Gan said that workers need to work longer because they are living longer. At the same time, they offer employers an expanding pool of experienced and skilled older workers in a tight labour market.

Simply raising the retirement age may do the job, but Mr Gan said that that may not be the most effective approach.

'Re-employment provides both employers and employees the flexibility to make necessary adjustments to employment terms and conditions to meet their respective needs,' he said. 'This flexibility will help to allow older workers to work longer without imposing undue burden on employers.'

When the law comes into force, employers will be obliged to offer retiring workers re-employment till 65, if they had performed satisfactorily and are fit. It may not be the same job as before, or the same pay and perks.

If no jobs are available, the employer must offer the worker - if he's eligible and wants to work - a one-off Employment Assistance Payment (EAP) to help him while he looks for another job.

Suggestions on the amount of the EAP payout as well as pay and perks for re-employment are found in the tripartite guidelines.

Should there be a re-employment dispute, the new law provides for the Manpower Ministry to offer conciliation and mediation.

Appeals can also be made to the Manpower Minister and complaints lodged with the Commissioner of Labour.