Tuesday 12 December 2017

Teachers get tax-free lump sums costing €2m a week

78 secondary and national school teachers each received more than €150k on retirement

Golden: Some members of the teaching profession can be very well paid
Golden: Some members of the teaching profession can be very well paid
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

A teacher received a lump sum of €163,000 on retirement as the cost of 'golden handshakes' in the schools sector now stands at €2m a week.

New records reveal 78 secondary and primary level teachers each received tax free lump sums of more than €150,000 in the past five years.

The revelation follows a high profile rejection by the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI), of the government's latest pay offer, although this has been accepted by the other teaching unions.

The union's decision means there remains a threat of industrial action which could hit educational reforms.

Meanwhile, new figures reveal the high cost of lump sum pension payments for retiring teaching staff.

In 2015, tax free gratuities in the primary and secondary sector totalled €101m - with one secondary teacher topping the 'lump sum' league table with a payment of €163,281.

Overall, some €64m was paid to those in the primary sector, while €37m went to secondary teachers.

Another second level staff member left the staff room with a payment of €161,126.

Three others in post-primary education received €160,941, €155,320 and €151,775 respectively.

Meanwhile, in 2015, the highest payout in the primary sector to an individual teacher was €150,546.

Four other teachers received retirement payouts of between €143,550 and €145,956.

And as controversy continues over the bill for the general taxpayer for funding public service pensions, it has emerged that in 2015 the cost - excluding lump sum payments - for the teaching sector had escalated to €797m.

This compares with €648m in 2011, and €712m in 2012.

In 2013, the figure stood at €718m, and in 2014 it crept up again to €736m.

According to the Department of Education, the figures also include pensions paid to spouses and children of former staff.

Retiring teachers and principals are entitled to one and a half times their salary in a tax free lump sum.

They receive a pension and lump sum at retirement provided they have a minimum of two years pensionable service.

Calculation of benefits are based on their total pensionable service - subject to a maximum of 40 years - and retiring pensionable pay.

The Department of Education said the increase in pension payments reflects an increase in the numbers of pensioners.

"While 1.5 times pay is the maximum lump sum a retiring teacher or principal can receive, it is important to note that most retirees do not receive this amount. Many teachers and principals opt to retire before reaching the 40 year maximum threshold.

"The increase in pension payments reflects increased numbers of pensioners.

"Over the past five years the overall number of pensions in payment on the Department's payroll has increased."

A number of measures have been introduced in an effort to reduce the burden on the public finances.

In 2013 the Single Public Service Pension Scheme came into force. Retirees under this scheme will have their benefits calculated by reference to career average earnings - rather than actual salary on retirement.

Sunday Independent

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