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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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