This is the first of three posts on my personal experience of mandatory retirement in Ireland.
Irish Labour TD (Member of Parliament) Anne Ferris has tabled a Bill to abolish mandatory retirement age. The Employment Equality (Abolition of Mandatory Retirement Age) Bill would prohibit employers imposing compulsory retirement ages on their employees. In November last, as a member of Age Action, I was asked to take part in their presentation at the Public Hearings of the Committee stage of the Bill at Leinster House,the seat of our Parliament, the Oireachtas, in Dublin.
This was my first visit to the Oireachtas and it was appropriate that I was there on a mission about a matter very dear to my heart. I had to vacate my job on my 65th birthday. At age 64 and 364 days I was an acceptable employee, but one day later I was unemployable. My ‘shelf life’ was up; my ‘use by’ date had been reached. Indeed I was fully aware for a long time that my career would grind to a halt at age 65, but I had hoped against hope that new provisions whereby public sector employees who joined after 2004 would not have to retire at age 65, could be extended to serving staff members.This was not to be and my pleas fell on deaf ears. The mandatory retirement age of 65 in the public sector department in which I worked was written in stone, and so agreed with the trade unions. In some departments the mandatory retirement age is 60.
Most of my public sector work colleagues are delighted to retire at age 65 or sooner. Many of them have long service and look forward to the day when they no longer have to work for a living. Some of my colleagues however,dread the day when their earning power is decimated. Like me, they may have entered pensionable employment later in life or they may have been subjected to the highly discriminatory ‘marriage bar’ that only ended in Ireland in the early 1970s. (The marriage bar meant that upon marriage, female employees were no longer eligible to work in the public sector and banks). Shorter working lives means smaller pensions. On retirement, I suffered a loss of income of 75%, yet my household bills, my medical bills and my mortgage still had to be serviced out of the reduced income. As the Dickens character Mr Micawber famously stated in the book David Copperfield, “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds,nineteen shillings and six pence, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”
It was a privilege to be able to add my voice at the Public Hearings of the Committee stage of the proposed legislation at Leinster House and to hear the heartfelt submissions being made by other participants. Some fearful of losing their jobs at compulsory retirement age because of ongoing family commitments, such as children at university for example, mortgage to pay. Others simply wanted to be able to stay and continue doing a good job as they had done for some time, some angry at having to lose their jobs at a particular age, yet not qualifying for state pension for some years afterwards or despairing of a system that allows for the casting aside of a wealth of experience as with doctors and nurses in our health service, just because of an accidental birthday.
Below are links to the official tapes of the Public Hearings at Leinster House. The recording begins at about 34 minutes in, with Age Action opening statement at 36.50 and my (very wobbly) contribution at 39 minutes mark. .
There are two further tapes covering all the submissions and discussions at
In the aftermath of the submissions, I was asked to take part in a number of interviews by the media. Ocean FM, a radio station serving the Sligo/South Donegal area still has a podcast available at this link:
Donegal Woman Claims Age Discrimination At Being Forced To Retire From Job, NWT, Thurs, 19th Nov . I am unsure about how long the link will remain live.
Just before Christmas the Final Report to Government was published and can be seen here. The Report recommends a change to the existing law and we look forward to a time when this will become a reality.
I would like to express my thanks to Justin Moran and all the Age Action team who do such wonderful work in raising awareness of issues that directly affect the quality of life of older people in Ireland.