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Mandatory retirement has lead to more 65-year-olds on the dole than at any other age

Age Action is calling for mandatory retirement clauses that force people out of their work because of their age to be abolished.

Image: Shutterstock/Kinga

“MANDATORY RETIREMENT IS simply age discrimination, forcing someone out of a job because they’ve reached some arbitrary age set by their employer.”

Justin Moran is head of advocacy and communications at Age Action. The advocacy organisation for older people is calling for mandatory retirement clauses that force people out of their work because of their age to be abolished.

“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?

A bill to abolish mandatory retirement drew all-party support in the Oireachtas last year but has been stalled since the General Election.

It was referred to the Select Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, it held hearings on the Bill and a report was published expressing unanimous support for the legislation.

However, earlier this year the Government published its Fuller Working Lives report in which it committed to another review of the current situation, but did not abolish mandatory retirement ages.

In a new briefing paper published this morning Age Action is urging TDs and senators of all parties to work together to bring the legislation forward.

Financial hardship

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’. Moran said,

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.”

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.”

While there is no single fixed retirement age for employees, most employment contracts stipulate a retirement age of 65 which leaves many people with a ‘pension gap’ before the contributory state pension kicks in.

The compulsory retirement age in the public sector for people who joined it before 1 April 2004 is 65 years.

However, the minimum retirement age for people who joined the public service after 1 April 2004 is 65. Some occupations such as the gardaí, firefighters and the Defence Forces have provisions for much earlier retirement.

Read: Government criticised for refusing to close the ‘pension gap’ for older workers>

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