The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011 provided that State pension age would increase to age 67 years in 2021 and to 68 years in 2028. The reason for these changes was to make the State pension system more sustainable as life expectancy increases. This is essential, as people who are working now and whose PRSI contributions fund State pension payments will need a State pension when the time comes for them to retire. This demographic change has significant implications for the future costs of the State's pension provision, which are increasing by approximately €1 billion every four to five years.
Social welfare legislation states that jobseeker's payments may be made until a person reaches pensionable age. The legislation also provides that the definition of "pensionable age" will increase as State pension age increases therefore the duration of jobseeker's payments will naturally adjust in line with increases in State pension age.
The age at which a person becomes eligible for a State pension is 66 and this will remain pension age until 1 January 2021 when it increases to age 67. A person who retires before reaching pension age may qualify for social insurance contribution-based jobseekers benefit or the means-tested jobseekers allowance if they satisfy the rules of the schemes. Jobseekers benefit is normally paid for 9 months (234 days) for people with 260 or more PRSI contributions paid and for 6 months (156 days) for people with fewer than 260 PRSI contributions paid. In the case of a person aged over 65, if they have at least 156 PRSI contribution weeks paid continued payment of jobseeker's benefit will be made even where benefit exhausts, until they reach pension age.
It is important to note that there is no statutory retirement age in Ireland and the age at which employees retire is a matter for the contract of employment contract between them and their employer. While such a contract may have been entered into with a retirement age of 65 year in the context of previous State pension arrangements there is no legal impediment to the employer and employee agreeing to increase the duration of employment by one or more years if both parties agree. The Workplace Relations Commission has produced a code of practice on longer working hours and The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has also published guidance material for employees and employers who use fixed-term contracts beyond what was the normal retirement age of 65 years. People are living longer and healthier lives and many of them want to continue working after 65 and these resources can facilitate them in their choice.
If the Deputy has a specific case in mind the person concerned should be advised to contact their Intreo Centre who will be able to clarify exactly what jobseeker's payments will apply in their circumstances.
I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.