Ireland plugs pensions gap for public servants

By on 13/12/2017
Leinster House, Dublin, is the seat of the Irish parliament, the Oireachtas (Image courtesy: Jean Housen).

The mandatory retirement age for thousands of public servants in the Republic of Ireland is set to rise from 65 to 70 – addressing an anomaly under which officials are required to retire at 65 but cannot receive a pension until they are 66.

Employees who joined after 2004 are already allowed to work until age 70; under new measures announced by the Irish government, that right will be extended to all public servants.

The opposition Fianna Fail party and the Independent Alliance raised the issue with the government during recent budget negotiations, calling for these officials – who account for the vast majority of public servants – to be given the option to work until they are 66.

Left in limbo

The Independent Alliance claimed that up to 5,000 public servants had been left in limbo and were being forced to register as unemployed and live on benefits for a full year after retirement, as reported by www.thejournal.ie.

The problem arose because the entitlement age for drawing the state pension in Ireland was raised to 66 in 2013, but a bridging payment for those who had to retire at 65 was subsequently abolished, according to the Irish Times.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe gained cabinet approval on 4 December for legislation to raise the compulsory retirement to age 70, which is due to come before Ireland’s parliament, the Oireachtas, early next year. The change is expected to be phased in gradually over 2018 and 2019.

Working to three score and ten

Paschal Donohoe, minister of finance, the Republic of Ireland, gained favour for legislation raising the compulsory retirement to age 70 (Image courtesy: EU2017EE Estonian Presidency).

Speaking on Ireland’s state broadcaster RTÉ on Wednesday 6 December, Donohoe said the change would allow public servants to work up to age 70 by agreement with their employer, but they would still be able to retire at the minimum age, which would remain unchanged.

He acknowledged that the move could lead to higher public service pay bills, because older workers staying on for longer were likely to be in higher grades and at the top of their pay scales. But Donohoe said this would be partially offset by the deferral of pension lump sums.

The later retirement date will not apply to frontline workers such as firefighters and Ireland’s police force, the Gardaí, who have accelerated pensions with a right to retire early on full pensions due to the nature of their work.

About Liz Heron

Liz Heron is a journalist based in London, who specialises in international news. She worked on daily newspapers for 16 years, reporting extensively on both general news and education. She was Education Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has contributed to a wide range of British media including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC.

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