That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Employment Equality Act 1998 and to provide for related matters.
I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to introduce this Bill. Simply put, this Bill seeks to abolish the mandatory retirement age contained in workers' contracts. Similar Bills have been introduced down through the years, and while successive Governments did not oppose them, they did not support them to the point that they brought them to their conclusion and this issue remains unresolved.
We have all acknowledged that it is an issue, but we have not yet seen action from Government. Every year, workers are forced out of jobs because of their age, not because they want to retire or have to retire for ill-health or any other reason but simply because it states in their contract that they must retire. The law facilitates the imposition of mandatory retirement ages in people's contracts of employment. It allows employers to set the age at which a person's career can be brought to a conclusion, regardless of how much work that worker has left to do or if he or she wishes to remain in work.
Sinn Féin fundamentally believes that at the age of 65, a worker should have the choice to work on if he or she so chooses, which is what this legislation facilitates, or to access the State pension. The current situation is ageist and unfair. We need to change it. The Government is denying workers the choice to retire and the choice to work on as they get older. Inaction on this has left workers in limbo. Many are forced onto the dole and they do not want to be on it. They do not necessarily want to retire, but want to work on. Unfortunately, the only option is to access the dole. After a lifetime of work, we believe that workers deserve to have that choice. There are exceptions in the Bill for those in security and specific industries that already have special, preserved pension ages. Sinn Féin believes that age should not be a ground to terminate a person's employment. This Bill is about giving workers a choice. It will put an end to the facilitation of ageism, which should have no place in our society. It certainly should not be presided over and facilitated by the Government.