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Monday 16 September 2019

Public servants can now work until they are 70

'The number of workers over 65 in Ireland is on the increase' (stock photo)
'The number of workers over 65 in Ireland is on the increase' (stock photo)
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Thousands of civil servants have been removed from a 'no man's land' whereby they would be forced to retire at 65 but unable to claim a pension until a year later.

New rules which were signed into law yesterday mean these workers can continue in their jobs until the age of 70 if they wish.

Around 5,000 older people were already caught out when it came to social welfare entitlements, with many left without any option but sign on the dole and formally pretend they were available for work. Thousands more would have joined them in the coming years.

The legislation passed in recent weeks will apply to most public servants recruited before April 2004, other than the designated uniform grades such as Gardaí, Prison Officers, Fire Fighters and members of the Permanent Defence Force.

Amid concerns last year the Government rehired some of the civil servants for a period of one year until they qualified for the State Pension. This cohort will not be affected by the change in law.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said retirement at 70 would now be compulsory.

Workers now have the choice to work beyond the age of 65 to age 70, on existing terms and conditions if they so choose, subject to the normal standards of health and performance, said.

"The new compulsory retirement age of 70 reflects the fact that people are living longer, healthier lives and that many wish to remain at work for longer because they feel they have more to contribute to work and to society," Mr Donohoe said.

His junior minister Patrick O'Donovan added: "This is a great step forward for the public service and will ensure that we do not prematurely lose the wealth of experience built up in the public service".

Public servants who decide to work beyond the age of 65 can continue to accrue retirement benefits, subject to a maximum of 40 years’ service.

Without the change, the problem would have been compounded by the raising of the pension age to 67 in four years' time, and a further rise to 68 inside a decade.

The 2016 Census showed numbers aged over 65 had grown by 100,000 over the previous five years, to a total of 640,000. The current pensions bill is more than €7bn, or over one-third of the entire spend on social welfare.

In 2013 the formal pension age was increased to 66 years and the so-called "retirement pension", which bridged the gap for those obliged to quit at 65, was abolished.

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