MORE workers are getting the option from their companies to work beyond the retirement age of 62, a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) survey shows.

About 85 per cent of the local workforce in the companies surveyed last year had such a choice, compared with 77 per cent a year ago.

No less significant is the re-employment contract for workers who turn 62. The survey shows more than two-thirds of these older workers were re-employed on their existing contract, instead of a new one with invariably unfavourable terms.

The rising number of companies supporting such re-employment was cheered by Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday, when he addressed about 900 employers, human resource managers and unionists at a re-employment seminar.

He said: 'I am heartened by these findings which indicate that more employers recognise the benefits that experienced and mature employees bring to their organisations and are taking steps to keep them beyond 62.'

The survey on retirement and re-employment practices, carried out from September to December last year, covered 3,100 companies.

The preliminary findings come ahead of a re-employment law that will kick in next January. Employers will be required to offer re-employment contracts, till age 65, to medically fit employees with satisfactory performance.

To help companies implement the impending legislation, Mr Gan announced a new programme called 'Accelerete', or Accelerating Re-Employment through Tripartite Efforts.

It joins a string of resources already in place, including the newly announced Special Employment Credit - cash grants to encourage employers to continue employing older, low-wage workers.

Under the 'Accelerete' programme, the tripartite partners will offer free consultancy services to companies which have not implemented re-employment, or need advice on the legislation.

Mr Heng Chee How, NTUC deputy secretary-general, said the programme's aim is to ensure smooth and effective implementation of re-employment.

He noted that 'more tuition', or guidance, is needed by a small proportion of companies - 7 per cent according to the MOM survey. They either do not think re-employment is necessary or had not thought about it.

To make re-employment a success, Mr Gan urged employers to be fair in adjusting job scope, pay and benefits, and employees to be flexible and open to training opportunities.

'Companies win, as they get to retain their valued older workers and remain competitive. Older employees win, as they have the opportunity to work longer, earn a regular income and build up their retirement savings.

'Singapore's economy wins as we can better utilise our limited manpower resources and reduce our reliance on foreign workers,' he said.

One company eyeing government resources is health-care consultancy QS-First - which has about 40 workers, including two in their late 50s.

It is looking at the Advantage Scheme, which provides grants and training programmes as well as an electronic appraisal system for companies to implement re-employment. Said its general manager Willy Goh: 'Older workers are experienced and we don't need to retrain them.'