Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Simon Coveney has announced that Government has approved the drafting of the Employment (Restriction of Certain Mandatory Retirement Ages) Bill 2024.

This would end the anomaly that saw people obliged to retire a year before they could access a pension.

Under the proposals, a clause in a contract of employment that sets a mandatory retirement age below 66 would not be enforceable without the consent of the employee.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment said that the element of consent contained in the bill reflected the fact that many employees might want to retire at the contractual retirement age.

Minister Coveney said, “I am very pleased that Government has agreed to the drafting of this important legislation. We know that people are living longer and healthier lives which is hugely positive. The series of landmark reforms the government committed to in response to the Pensions Commission report, which are being led by my colleague Minister Heather Humphreys, will ensure the pensions system is sustainable in the face of demographic change and that people relying on the State Pension have adequate and predictable income in retirement.”

The move will allow employees currently obliged to retire before they become entitled to the state pension, commonly at 65 in the private sector, to inform their employers in writing of their intention to stay on.

The general issue has contributed to an increasing number of age discrimination cases at the Workplace Relations Commission, with more than 500 in 2022, and aspects of the current legislation has been the subject of several challenges in the courts.

More generally, the disparity between the age at which many private sector employees were obliged to leave their jobs and the age at which they became entitled to the State pension has long been criticised by unions and various NGOs as an anomaly.

The change was recommended by the Pensions Commission. Officials from the Department of Enterprise met IBEC, ICTU and SIPTU to advise them on the overall policy approach. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) welcomed the move to restrict the use of mandatory retirement ages by employers.

“The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has long argued there is a sizeable and growing number of workers who are forced to retire earlier than they would wish because of the age of retirement in their employment contract, typically 65,” said Owen Reidy, ICTU General Secretary.

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