Employment Equality (Amendment) Bill 2016: First Stage

The next Bill is in the names of Deputies O'Dea and Butler who, I understand, are sharing the five minutes.

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Employment Equality Act 1998 to allow for the abolition of mandatory retirement where an employee can provide evidence of full fitness to work as required in their contract of employment.

This Bill arises from a policy document issued by Fianna Fáil in 2012. That policy document gave rise to a Bill, published by the then Senator Mary White, entitled the Employment Equality (Amendment) Bill 2012. Now, in 2016, I am pleased, alongside Deputy Butler, to publish the Employment Equality (Amendment) Bill of 2016 which again seeks to end compulsory retirement in this country. To broaden choice and rights, Fianna Fáil seeks an end to compulsory retirement of persons at the age of 65, whether in the public or the private sectors, and to make it unlawful to require a person to retire at or above the age of 65 unless there are clearly specified grounds justifying such compulsory retirement, such as competence and performance.

Fianna Fáil believes that we should do what we can to recognise the potential of our ageing population to contribute to and enrich our society in many diverse ways given their talents, experience and wisdom and the many years of healthy life expectancy which, happily, most can enjoy. With that in mind, it is time to abolish mandatory retirement in order that people can continue to work beyond normal retirement age should they wish to do so, and that is precisely what this Bill proposes to do.

In Ireland today, people are living longer and have more years of healthy active living than previous generations enjoyed. Today, a woman, when she reaches the age of 65, has an average life expectancy of a further 20 years while a man can anticipate 17 additional years of life.

We have an ever-growing number of older people in our midst. They are projected to double in number from 500,000 today to 1 million in less than 20 years. It is simply wrong that people who are productive, working, contributing to society, paying tax, are healthy and want to keep working should be compelled to retire.

Compulsory retirement based on age is discrimination. Unless there are convincing reasons, such as health and safety concerns, workers should have the right to choose when they retire. When Canada ended mandatory retirement last year, its human rights commission pointed out, "We're not born with date stamps saying our fitness for work expires at 65." We agree and that is why we are moving this Bill today.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.