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Age Action calls for abolition of mandatory retirement

Published 25/11/2016

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In a new briefing paper published this morning Age Action called for the abolition of mandatory retirement clauses that every year force workers out of their because of their age.

Ireland’s leading advocacy organisation for older people point out that a Bill to abolish mandatory retirement drew all-party support in the Oireachtas last year but has been stalled since the General Election. Age Action is urging TDs and senators of all parties to work together to bring the legislation forward.

Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications at Age Action, said: “Mandatory retirement is simply age discrimination, forcing someone out of a job because they’ve reached some arbitrary age set by their employer.

“People retiring today are expected, on average, to live 20 years or more. The number of people aged over 65 is going to almost treble in the next thirty years.

“If someone wants to work and can do the job, why should they be forced out because they turn 65?”

Loophole

As the briefing paper explains EU employment law forbids discrimination on the basis of age but a loophole allows Member States to treat workers differently if justified by a ‘legitimate aim’.

Justin Moran continued: “Courts have found that examples of a ‘legitimate aim’ can include forcing older workers onto the dole to make room for younger unemployed even though the evidence shows this does not lead to increased employment for younger people.

“Those countries with high rates of employment for older workers are also typically those with similar rates for young people.

“Government policy is to support longer working lives, to enable those who wish to work a little longer to do so, to value their contribution and their experience. But in practice, employers are permitted to get rid of older workers for no other reason than they turn 65."

Age Action member Angela Gallagher with Deputy Anne Ferris and Justin Moran at committee hearings into mandatory retirement.
Age Action member Angela Gallagher with Deputy Anne Ferris and Justin Moran at committee hearings into mandatory retirement.

Financial hardship

Recent changes to the Irish pension system means that many victims of mandatory retirement clauses are not just losing their salaries, they’re losing out in State supports.

Justin Moran explained: “The Government raised the State Pension age from 65 to 66 and abolished the transition pension.

“This means a worker forced into retirement at the age of 65, the most common age chosen by employers, has no choice but to go on the dole for 12 months while waiting to receive their pension.

“This is why there are more 65-year-olds on Jobseeker’s Benefit than at any other age and it means these newly unemployed workers are getting almost €50 a week less than they would if they were entitled to a State Pension.”

Legislation

In 2014 Deputy Anne Ferris introduced the Employment Equality (Abolition of Mandatory Retirement Age) Bill.

This would abolish mandatory retirement ages in Ireland for people who are able and willing to continue working. It includes a number of exceptions for professions related to security, such as An Garda Síochána, or public safety, such as the fire service.

The Bill passed Second Stage in the Dáil on 9 October 2015 with cross-party support and was referred to the Select Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality.

The committee held hearings on the Bill and published a report expressing unanimous support for the legislation. The Bill has been stalled since the General Election.

Age Action urges members of the Oireachtas and particularly members of the Select Committee on Justice and Equality to take this Bill forward.

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Age Action is calling for a Digital Allowance to support the Digital Inclusion of Older People and a Study on the Cost of Ageing in Budget 2021

(30 July 2020) 

Age Action, Ireland’s leading advocacy organisation on ageing and older people is calling for Budget 2021 to include a digital allowance in the form of a €2.50 increase to the Telephone Support Allowance and a broadening of the eligibility criteria to support older people to access digital technology.

Paddy Connolly, CEO Age Action said ‘Digital exclusion is a reality for at least 33% of people over the age of 65 with the associated cost being one of the barriers to access for older people. We know that communication costs have increased during COVID-19 as people became more reliant on digital communications as a means of communicating with family, health professionals, arranging essential services and addressing social isolation.  In the context of an increasing reliance on telehealth measures and public health advice, Age Action urges the Government to increase the Telephone Support Allowance, introduced in June 2018 at a weekly rate of €2.50, to €5 and for a broadening of the eligibility criteria which is narrowly confined to those getting the Living Alone Allowance who are also eligible for the Fuel Allowance.’

Government services now actively prefer transactions to be digital under a “Digital First”approach, encouraging people to carry out their tax returns, and apply to r enew their driving licences and passports online. The Public Service ICT Strategy prioritises the digitisation of ‘the main existing citizen and business transactional services across Public Services’. There is an increasing reliance on digital channels to provide information by both the public and private sector which undermines people’s ability to access information which was very evident during the height of the pandemic. In a recent CSO survey of households of those over 60 and not online, the second greatest challenge to people who said they needed access to broadband, after lack of digital skills, was the perceived prohibitive cost.

‘Older people are being left behind because they do not have adequate access or skills to engage with digital services or participate in the digital economy; providing a digital allowance as well as investing in one-to-one digital literacy training that meets the needs of older people, is critical to bridging the digital divide. The new National Digital Skills Strategy committed to under the Programme for Government will have budgetary implications; Budget 2021 should begin to support older people to keep up’ Connolly said.