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Legislative Measures

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 3 July 2018

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Questions (1)

Barry Cowen


1. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when legislation to increase the compulsory retirement age for public servants will be introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29059/18]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Public)

In May the Minister assured us the legislation to cater for the increase in the compulsory retirement age for public servants would be introduced but it has not happened. Why is it taking so long? Is it a priority for the Government or is it not? I am sure the Minister will agree it now looks certain, in the absence of such legislation, that the public sector will lose valuable people who do not wish to retire at this juncture. The current situation is simply unfair. Now that we only have a week left in this session and considering the Minister has made a commitment the legislation would be available during this session, will it be published next week?

I acknowledge the fact Deputy Cowen has raised this issue with me on a number of occasions. I want to inform both him and the House that I will be bringing a memorandum to the Government meeting on Thursday seeking approval for the publication of the relevant Bill, which is to be entitled the Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Bill 2018. Subject to Government approval, which I am hopeful I will receive, my intention is to publish the Bill after the Government meeting.

The Bill will provide that any public servant reaching the age of 65 who is covered by the legislation will be in a position to remain at work until they reach the new compulsory retirement age of 70. The main provisions of the Bill drafted are as follows. The vast majority of public servants recruited prior to 1 April 2004 will have a new compulsory retirement age of 70. Those public servants will continue to accrue retirement benefits up to the new compulsory retirement age of 70, subject to a maximum of 40 years' service. The so-called uniformed pension fast accrual group, that is, gardaí, firefighters and so on, will be unaffected by these changes.

When the Bill is enacted, public servants will no longer need to avail of the temporary interim measures which allow affected public servants to retire and be rehired only until they reach the age of 66, which is the age of eligibility for the State pension. The new compulsory retirement age will not come into effect until the necessary legislation is commenced. In the meantime, the Government has approved some limited interim arrangements to apply in the period between the Government decision and the commencement of the legislation.

I thank the Minister for his response. I welcome the fact that, even at this late stage, at least we can expect publication of the Bill on Thursday, subject to Government approval. As he alluded to, however, the measures in the Bill cannot come into effect until such time as the legislation is passed through the Houses. Towards the end of his response, the Minister said he will be bringing forward some interim measures. Will he expand on those to say if they cater for the unfortunate people who had expected, based on the commitment made, that even allowing for the fact the Minister might forgo pre-legislative scrutiny, the Dáil might be in a position to enact such legislation as provided for in the Bill? In the absence of that, and I am sure the Minister will apologise for it, he might enlighten us as to what interim measures might be forthcoming.

I always said it would be my intention to publish this Bill and see it enacted this year, and we are going to deliver against that. If no interim measures were in place, I would understandably have been criticised for the lack of such interim measures, given the interest many public servants have in accessing the provisions of this scheme.

To answer the Deputy's point, the interim measures enable pre-2004 public servants who reach the age of 65 to remain in employment only until they reach the age of eligibility for the contributory State pension, which is currently 66, subject to certain conditions. Existing retire and re-hire mechanisms are being used by public bodies to facilitate affected staff for the interim period. Payment under the interim arrangements at the minimum point of the relevant payscale is in line with current arrangements.

To date, 100 members of the Civil Service have availed of the interim measures. As I have just said, if we had no interim measures, the level of anxiety with regard to the introduction of this Bill would only have increased.

To clarify, it is merely at the discretion of the relevant employers, who can allow an extension, rather than the obligation of the relevant employers. Am I correct in stating that? In the absence of any discretion being shown and in the absence of legislation that is not applicable to anybody who wishes to extend the period of employment beyond the retirement age that is provided for under existing legislation, is there an unfortunate failure to honour the commitment that was made?

I have honoured the commitments I gave recently in regard to publishing the legislation and bringing it forward. It has taken time to draft this Bill because of the complexity involved in evolving the terms and conditions of the many people who work within our public service and Civil Service.

To answer the Deputy's question in regard to whether it is at the discretion of the employer, given that the legislation we are bringing in will give a further right to the employee, my expectation of the interim measures is that they allow anybody who wants to avail of them to access them. I am not aware at the moment of any cases where those interim measures were not made available to anybody who was looking for them.