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Best Employers for Workers Over 50

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Virginia Commonwealth University

Winner: 2009 Best Employers for Workers Over 50

Winning Years: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005
Industry: Education-Post-Secondary
Location: Richmond, Va.

Highlights of 2009 Winning Strategies

In 2009, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) celebrates its fifth consecutive year on AARP's list of Best Employers for Workers Over 50. More than one-third of the workforce at VCU is age 50 or above, and the average tenure for age-50+ workers is more than 15 years. VCU offers retirees nearly all the same benefits as working employees, including individual and spousal long-term-care coverage.

In addition, VCU recently developed a retirement-education series, and the university works with the Department of Geriatric Services at the medical center to offer employees several programs and resources on aging and caregiving.

VCU offers full-time employees the opportunity to participate in a formal phased-retirement program.

Recruiting: Virginia Commonwealth University uses placement agencies for older job seekers to target mature workers and retirees. The university also relies on classified advertising in the newspapers and uses the Internet, local employment agencies, job fairs, and employee referrals to recruit new workers.

Workplace Culture and Continued Opportunities: All full- and part-time employees at VCU can take advantage of in-house classroom training, online training, and certification classes. Full-time employees who work 40 hours per week are eligible for tuition reimbursement, even if the courses are not related to their jobs. In 2008, 40 percent of all employees participated in at least one of VCU's training opportunities, with an average 150 hours per employee spent in training.

The university celebrates its employees' long-service anniversaries with announcements, a party, and awards.

During the past three years, as a way of responding to employee feedback, the university developed a retirement-education series with a focus on financial security. VCU also partners with its Medical Center's Geriatric Services to help employees with programs and resources on aging and caregiving.

Employees at VCU can gain experience and develop new skills by completing team projects and temporary assignments in other departments.

The school has accommodated employees with special needs through its Rehab, Research, and Training center, by making building adjustments, and by investing in appropriate technological equipment. VCU has a Work/Life Program that offers employee seminars on health, finances, and family caregiving.

Benefits/Health: Full- and part-time VCU employees who work at least 20 hours per week can receive individual and family medical, prescription-drug, dental, vision, long-term-care, and short- and long-term-disability coverage. To help employees handle their out-of-pocket health-care expenses, VCU encourages them to set up health savings accounts (HSA) or health flexible spending accounts (FSA).

VCU retirees below and above age 65 can choose among individual and spousal medical, prescription-drug, vision, dental, and long-term-care insurance. They can access the services of an employee assistance program (EAP) and can receive individual life insurance. Retirees also receive a monthly credit for health insurance of $4 for every year of service.

Benefits/Financial: VCU offers a 403(b) with employer match, a defined-benefit plan, and a money-purchase defined-contribution plan to its full- and part-time employees. The university automatically enrolls all new hires are in the plan. Employees can choose to invest in life-cycle funds based on their ages and proximity to retirement, and those age 50+ can make catch-up contributions. VCU staff, representatives of the financial-services firm that administers the 403(b) plan, and external financial experts provide retirement and investment education to individual workers or groups.

VCU allows employees to take paid time off specifically for caregiving. Employees can also take unpaid leaves of absence to care for children or family members.

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