Sunday 22 September 2019

Women who stayed at home to rear children suffering 'blatant discrimination' with pension rules, Dáil told

Fianna Fail's Niall Collins
Fianna Fail's Niall Collins

John Dowliong

Women who opted to stay at home and rear their children are now being penalised by unfair pension rules, the Dáil has been told.

Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins said some 23,000 pensioners were suffering “blatant discrimination” because the years they spent as carers outside the workforce were being used in pension calculations. The years out of the workforce drastically reduced their pension due to a lack of contributions which were averaged over their entire working life.

Mr Collins said the Finance Minister, Paschal Donohoe, had told RTÉ's Seán O’Rourke that the situation “was bonkers and unbelievable.” Yet the Minister also went on to say that he could not remedy the problem which arose from pension changes introduced in 2012.

“It’s  really, really inconceivable that the Minister for Finance should react like that,” Mr Collins told the Dáil.

The Limerick TD addressed his comments directly to Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald reminding her that she was a former leader of the National Women’s Council of Ireland which had condemned the practice.

Replying for the Government, Ms Fitzgerald said the Finance Minister’s comments about “bonkers and unbelievable” referred specifically to the notorious “marriage bar” which obliged women quit their jobs in the civil service after marrying.  This rule applied right up to the early 1970s and compounded this issue.

The Tánaiste said changing the rules would cost €60m in 2018, with an extra €10m each  to be added in each succeeding year.  Paying back money would cost some €230m and all these costs could reduce other pensioners’ payments.

Ms Fitzgerald said the issue was being studied as part of an overall review of women’s pay and access to pensions. She said there would be some recommendations later this year and a change in the method of pension calculations would be implemented after 2020.

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