A decision to raise the mandatory retirement age for public service staff from 65 to 70 has been broadly welcomed by advocates for older people.
However, there was concern that private sector workers could be left behind in retirement income and earning potential unless a similar opportunity to work longer was extended to them.
Justin Moran, head of advocacy and communications with Age Action, said: “Many older workers are afraid of losing their job for no other reason than turning 65. They want to be able to work a little longer to ensure a more secure retirement.”
Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe stressed the decision of State employees to remain on after the traditional retirement age of 65 would be optional.
He said there would be no changes to minimum retirement ages.
The reforms, which were agreed by the Cabinet on Tuesday, affect public service staff recruited before April 2004.
The Department of Public Expenditure said public servants taken on after April 2004 either already had a retirement age of 70 or had no compulsory retirement age.
The changes will not apply to frontline groups such as gardaí, firefighters, Defence Forces personnel and prison officers, who are required to retire earlier than other public service staff due to the nature of their work and who have accelerated pension schemes.
Mr Donohoe said staff who opted to stay on beyond age 65 would have to continue to make pension contributions even if they had served for 40 years and qualified for a full pension. He said they would not receive additional pension benefits.
He said any increased costs involved for the State in permitting public service staff to work for longer would be offset by delays in not having to pay retirement lump sums.
Mr Donohoe highlighted what he described as difficulties experienced by public servants who are obliged to retire at age 65 but who are not eligible for the contributory State pension until their 66th birthday.
He said: “Many pensioners feel that they have earned their pension and should not have to ‘sign on’ as a jobseeker in order to receive a portion of it.”
Age Action highlighted the fact that a similar problem was faced by many private sector workers who were obliged to retire at 65 and who would not receive their State pensions until age 66, or 67 from 2021 and 68 in 2028.
It said the many thousands of workers in the private sector who would not benefit from the public service reforms could not be left behind.
The Minister said a proposed Workplace Relations Commission code of practice would examine the issue