Double Date with Leinster House Debates

Wednesday the 10th of May was a busy day for the ISCP as we attended two Joint Committee Meetings in Leinster House with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment as well as the Department of Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands. The first meeting focused on the General Scheme of the Employment (Restriction of Certain Mandatory Retirement Ages) Bill 2024 attended by our National Coordinator Pat Mellon. The aim of the measure is to restrict the enforceability of mandatory clauses in employment contracts where the employee wishes to continue in employment. As recommended by the Pensions Commission, this will deliver a statutory provision which will allow, but in no way compel, an employee to stay in employment until the State pension age.

Pat spoke to the fact that the ISCP strongly believe in the right of older people to choose their retirement age. We believe strongly in the rights of older people to continue to contribute to society in all areas, including choice regarding their working life. In the past few years, we have worked with many retired worker-staff associations whose members have similar experiences and concerns relating directly to their date and age of retirement and the lack of clarity relating to legal age for retirement. Currently, people who had to retire when they reached the age of 65 must seek social welfare benefit payment until they reach the age of 66 and cannot get the State pension or avail of supplementary benefits. He narrated the case of some women in particular who are regarded as an appendage to the assets of their husbands, which is not right.

With regard to the Bill itself, Mary Murphy of Age Action pointed out;

“The Bill does not in fact prevent mandatory retirement at the age of 65 or below; it just changes the requirements the employer must meet. It is not clear that this will even narrow the circumstances in which it can occur, or create any impediment for employers.”

The full debate is available to read HERE.


The second Joint Committee meeting discussed the impact of Means Testing on State Pension and other Social Welfare Schemes in which our MDO, Niamh Kavanagh campaigned heavily against;

“What we do not need is more ways of taxing our retirees; rather, we need a system that recognises the needs of those who have reached retirement and need to feel safe, comfortable and valued. Rather than means testing the basic needs of those who have given more than their fair share, a closer look at the pension contributions tax breaks, which very high earners can avail of, may well be a more constructive and equal approach.

There is need for an overhaul of the system to allow for a more effective support to ensure older people and those on other State transfers would have a better standard of living. The ISCP supports a review based on Social Justice Ireland’s call for a universal pension, which would solve many of the problems inherent in the system as it would provide a guaranteed income during old age for all older residents on an individual basis, without regard to anomalies in their social insurance history. It would also provide a secure and certain framework around which individuals can plan for their retirement and, over time, it would distribute income, creating a more egalitarian society.”

Nat O’Connor from Age Action put forward three alternatives to means testing which include universalism, credited social insurance and targeting payments based on other eligibility criteria, not just income or savings, such as, for example, once again giving a medical card to everyone aged 70 and older based on age and not on income.

Sean Moynihan of ALONE commented on the fact that means testing is calculated based on household rather than individual income. Negative impacts resulting from this include cases where older people have been unable to access fuel allowance due to adult children moving back into their parents’ home. Also, something the ISCP have spoken to before, means testing for the non-contributory pension for couples sufficiently impacts individual autonomy and independence in older age, not to mention financial security.

Ireland still spends less money on pensions, which is a function of Ireland’s demographic structure, and relies more heavily on means-tested social assistance rather than social insurance. However, retirement from employment continues to correlate with a decrease in income, resulting in dependence on the State pension for many individuals within Irish society. The growth in wage incomes has outpaced that of State pensions, thereby exacerbating the disparity between the incomes of retirees and employed individuals. The commitment to link the State pension to 34% of the average wage has not been realised, thereby adding further insecurity to pension provision and the gap between rich and poor. 

You can read this debate in full HERE.