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Best Employers for Workers Over 50

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University of St. Thomas

Winner: 2009 Best Employers for Workers Over 50

Industry: Education – Post Secondary
Location: Houston

Highlights of 2009 Winning Strategies

This year, the University of St. Thomas makes its first appearance on AARP's list of Best Employers for Workers Over 50. More than 50 percent of the university faculty are above age 50, and 40 percent are age 60+.

Workplace Culture and Continued Opportunities: The university offers tuition reimbursement and certification classes to employees who work 30 or more hours per week. All employees are eligible for in-house classroom training. During the past 12 months, one-fourth of the university's employees participated in at least one learning and development opportunity, with an average of six hours of instruction per employee. The university celebrates long-service anniversaries with announcements, parties, and awards. One employee who recently celebrated 50 years of service to the university received a scholarship contribution made in her name.

The university has used feedback from employee opinion surveys to develop new programs, such as a formal phased-retirement program. Employees can acquire additional skills and experience by completing temporary assignments in other departments and by participating in team projects.

The University of St. Thomas is sensitive to the needs of its workers with disabilities. One such worker uses a wheelchair and a service dog. The university ensured that all the buildings on campus could accommodate the employee and her dog.

Benefits/Health: Employees who work 30 or more hours per week are eligible for the following individual and family benefits: medical, prescription-drug, vision, dental, long-term-care, and short- and long-term-disability coverage. The university offers health flexible spending accounts (FSA) to help employees defray out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Benefits/Financial: Employees working at least 20 hours per week receive a defined-contribution retirement plan with an employer match. To encourage participation, the university automatically enrolls all new hires; employees age 50+ can make catch-up contributions.

University employees who also have caregiving responsibilities at home can take unpaid short- and long-term leave to attend to their duties. Additionally, the university provides paid time off specifically designed for caregiving.

The university offers the following wellness programs to full- and part-time employees: flu shots, health screenings, discounts to local health clubs, physical-activity programs, and stress-management training. Full- and part-time employees can use the health system's referral services to find child care.

Benefits/Alternative Work Arrangements: Employees who work 30+ hours per week can use flextime, and those who work 10+ hours per week can participate in a formal phased-retirement program. (The phased-retirement program is available to staff, faculty, and administrators who have completed at least 15 years of service.) The maximum term of the phased-retirement agreement is three years, during which the employee can have responsibility for a workload that is two-thirds, one-half, or one-third the previous amount. Employees who choose phased retirement are entitled to retain all of their privileges and benefits.  

Opportunities for Retirees: The University of St. Thomas has 10 retirees and an employee who is directly responsible for maintaining retiree relations. The university stays connected with retirees through regular communication, by inviting them to events, and by formally acknowledging them when they retire. Retirees are eligible for temporary assignments and full- and part-time work at the university.

Age of Workforce: Thirty-nine percent of the University of St Thomas employees are age 50+, with an average tenure of 10 years.

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