Thursday, 27 May 2021
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
218. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the recommendation of the Citizens' Assembly on Gender Equality to address the impact of the marriage bar by automatically qualifying women affected by the marriage bar for a State pension; if she is considering such a move; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29041/21]
I am aware of the recent publication of the Citizens Assembly recommendations in relation to Gender Equality and want to note the Programme for Government commitment that the Government would respond to the recommendations of the Assembly. This response will cover a wide range of policy areas and is being coordinated by the Department of the Taoiseach.
The marriage bar describes a rule that existed in most of the public service, and some private sector employments, where women were required to leave their employment upon marriage. As it was a rule rather than law, married women could either return to work or take up other work, and many did.
Most public servants recruited prior to 1995 are not entitled to the State pension, regardless of gender and marital status. Therefore, the marriage bar would not generally have impacted on State pension entitlement, as they would not have qualified for that payment had they remained in public sector employment. The implications it had for public service pensions are matters for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.
The State pension system currently gives significant recognition to those whose work history includes an extended period of time outside the paid workplace, often to raise families or in a full-time caring role, through the award of credits and/or the application of the Homemaker’s Scheme (under the Yearly Average method for payment calculation) and/or the application of HomeCaring Periods (under the Aggregated Contribution Method or Interim Total Contributions Approach). Details of these are -
Credits – PRSI Credits are awarded to recipients of Carer’s Allowance (and Carer’s Benefit) where they have an underlying entitlement to credits. Credits are also awarded to workers who take unpaid Carer’s Leave from work.
Homemaker’s Scheme - The scheme, which was introduced with effect from 1994, is designed to help homemakers and carers qualify for State Pension (Contributory). The Scheme, which allows periods caring for children or people with a caring need to be disregarded (from 1994), can have the effect of increasing the Yearly Average.
HomeCaring Periods – This Scheme makes it easier for a home carer to qualify for a higher rate of State Pension (Contributory). HomeCaring Periods can only be used under the Aggregated Contribution Method (also known as Interim TCA or T12) of pension calculation. HomeCaring Periods may be awarded for each week not already covered by a paid or credited social insurance contribution. A maximum of 20 years HomeCaring periods can be used as part of the Aggregated Contribution Method calculation.
Since April 2019 all new State (Contributory) Pension applications are assessed under all possible rate calculation methods, including the Yearly Average and Aggregated Contribution Method, with the most beneficial rate paid to the pensioner. The elements which make up each method are set out in legislation.
It should be noted that if a person does not satisfy the conditionality to qualify for State Pension (Contributory), s/he may qualify for the means-tested State Pension (Non-Contributory), the maximum rate of which is over 95% that of the maximum rate of the State Pension (Contributory). Alternatively, if his/her spouse is a State pensioner with significant household means, his/her most beneficial payment may be an Increase for a Qualified Adult, based on his/her personal means, and amounting to up to 90% of a full contributory pension.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.