Thursday, 20 December 2018
Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Bill 2018: [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] Report and Final Stages
There is a concern here, which the Minister of State has heard in both Houses because it affects people in these buildings, though it also affects many people outside.
The overall policy intent of the Bill is effectively a recognition of the fact that persons are able to work, contribute and add value up to the age of 70. I feel passionately about this. About eight years ago, in 2010, I was working with Older and Bolder. We produced a report on the demographic dividend, creativity in later life and the extraordinary contribution made in the workplace in many cases by older workers. We know that in every sphere of life people are contributing at a later age. This is the policy intent of the Bill and is something which I think is commended and supported across the Houses and across all parties.
There is, however, something of an anomaly in this. The Minister of State will say this relates to the drawdown of a pension but, effectively, changing the date facilitates the idea that people would work longer. As was said, there is a cohort of people who accepted the interim arrangement between 6 December 2017 and the commencement of the Act. An interim arrangement was offered, which was an extension of a year. In our previous discussions, the Minister of State has indicated his concern about the position if those who have taken the interim arrangement of the year's extension were to be offered, as I believe they should be, the opportunity of an extension and to continue working until the age of 70. There are a number of ways to do this. If they were to be offered the extension, it might also need to be offered to those who chose not to avail of the interim arrangement. I put it to the Minister, however, that taken together, this cohort of persons is quite small. It should be strongly considered that in the three-month review proposed here, if the Government is concerned about not offering a solution to one group of people who are still working and contributing and who face this cut-off point at the age of 66, despite having not only indicated but proven that they are willing and keen to continue working, if in order to offer them a solution the Government must also offer it to others who made a different choice on 6 December 2017 or since, that should not be a buyer. We are still talking about a very small cohort of persons who either opted or did not opt for the interim scheme. It is important that they be able to avail of this scheme and continue.
There are a number of solutions. The Government can offer solutions simply to those who took the interim arrangement. It can offer an extension to those who took the interim arrangement or did not take it. New contracts could be devised and made as a new offer of work to those who are finishing work at the age of 66. This can be a new set of offers. There are policy solutions to this issue. It should be considered that it is an anomaly that really affects people and that when we look across the public service, we do not have the workers we need in areas such as health and education. We know this. Anyone who has sat in on health, housing or education committee debates will know there are shortages of qualified workers with experience in many areas.
The Minister of State has accepted this three-month review, and that is something. I would prefer if we had tried to find the policy solutions in this legislation. I worry about the people who will time out, as it were, within the three-month period between now and this review. I urge the Minister of State to find solutions. If this Bill recognises the huge contribution that persons can make and are making, we should not be afraid of a policy solution that recognises the contributions of those who have faced retirement in the past year. Those who have faced this period of limbo constitute a cohort that should be accommodated, and I think this is felt across the House. I therefore urge the Minister of State not to let down people needlessly and lose the talent, skills and experience of workers needlessly.