L.L. Bean, Maine’s fifth-largest employer, has started an employee buyout plan and other belt-tightening measures after a couple years of flat sales.

The measures, announced last February, started Jan. 1, with the aim of reducing its workforce by 500 full-time people, or 10 percent of its 5,000 employees, said L.L. Bean spokeswoman Carolyn Beem. Of L.L. Bean’s total employees, 4,000 are in Maine working in manufacturing, call centers, stores and administrative offices.

“The program is open through the end of February this year to any eligible employee for a voluntary buyout,” she said. That means 900 full-time workers who have been at the company at least 15 years and are 55 years or older have the option to take the buyout, and she expects 500 to do so.

She would not comment on how many people have taken the deal so far, nor how many the company expects will do so. The company has not announced any layoffs, she said. Employees who take the buyout will get a stipend for medical premiums and some pension benefits.

At the same time, the company stopped contributing to its pension plan. That follows a national trend of companies getting rid of pension plans and offering other benefits, according to The Associated Press.

L.L. Bean is boosting company contributions to 401(k) plans from 4 percent to as much as 8 percent of annual income, allowing more flex-time and leave for parental or elder care, Beem said.

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