Is there a set retirement age?
In employment law, there is no set age for retirement. However, many employers may have their own retirement ages. Although 65 is generally the age most people retire at, many people continue working past this.
Retirement age is not the same as the State Pension age, which is 66.
- If you are self-employed, there is no set retirement age.
- If you are an employee, your retirement age may be set out in your contract of employment.
Some contracts of employment have a mandatory retirement age (that is, the age at which you must retire). The usual retirement age in a contract of employment is 65. Many contracts allow for early retirement from age 60, or in some cases from age 55. Most contracts also allow for early retirement on health grounds. You can also ask to work longer than your contractual retirement age.
In some jobs, such as An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces, there is a statutory retirement age. This means the retirement age is set out in law. Read about statutory retirement ages below.
Retirement age for public sector workers
If you are a public sector worker, your retirement age depends on when you joined the public service unless there is a statutory retirement age.
The below table summarises the retirement age for public sector workers.
When you joined the Public Service
Before April 2004
New compulsory retirement age of 70
Compulsory retirement age was 65, but now it is 70, subject to suitability and good health. Exceptions apply for certain occupations.
Between 1 April 2004 and 31 December 2012
No compulsory retirement age
No specific compulsory retirement age for this group.
After 1 January 2013
Minimum retirement age is 66 in line with the State Contributory Pension
Mandatory retirement age is 70
You can work until age 70, subject to suitability and good health. Pension benefits accrue on a career-average basis, building up in each pay period based on a percentage of your pensionable remuneration.
For jobs with a statutory retirement age
In some jobs, there is a statutory retirement age. This means the retirement age is set out in law.
- Members of the Garda Síochána must retire by age 60. If they joined after 2004, they can choose to retire as early as age 55.
- Full-time members of the Fire Service must retire by age 55. Retained firefighters also retire at 55, but they have the option to apply for an extension up to age 58. This is subject to a formal application process and medical assessment.
Retirement age for the self-employed and others
There is no set retirement age for self-employed people.
There is no general age limit for company directors, but sometimes the company's articles of association may set an upper age limit.
General practitioners (GPs) must retire from the General Medical Services scheme at age 72. However, they can continue in private practice if they meet the ‘fitness to practise’ criteria set by the Medical Council.
Contractual retirement age
Most contracts of employment have a mandatory retirement age (the age at which you must retire). This is usually 65.
Many employment contracts, allow for early retirement from 60 (or in some cases, from 55). Most also allow for early retirement on health grounds.
Can I be forced to retire?
In some cases, your employer can force you to retire at a certain age. The employer should discuss the intention for you to retire well in advance of any proposed retirement date.
Employers can generally only enforce a mandatory retirement age if they can show:
- The age at which an employee must retire is clearly stated and applied consistently.
- The employer has a valid reason for having this policy, and it is objectively and reasonably justified by a legitimate aim (business need).
- The means of achieving the aim are proportionate and necessary.
Some possible examples of legitimate aims are:
- Allowing employment opportunities for younger workers
- Health and safety concerns, for safety-critical jobs
- Addressing age imbalances in the workforce
- Succession planning
In deciding to have a mandatory retirement age, the employer must also consider if there is a less or non-discriminatory way of achieving the intended aim or aims.
Can I ask to work beyond my retirement age?
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has a code of practice on longer working (pdf). The code sets out best practice and guidance in the run up to retirement.
If you want to ask to work beyond retirement age, make your request at least 3 months before the intended retirement date.
This should be followed up with a meeting between you and your employer. Your employer must tell you their decision as soon as possible.
If they offer you a fixed-term contract it must clearly state, the length of the contract and the legal grounds.
If your request is refused
If your employer refuses your request, they must meet with you and explain the specific objective reasons for their decision. You can bring a colleague or union representative to the meeting.
You should be allowed to discuss and challenge these reasons before a final decision is made. You should also be able to appeal the final decision. Your union representative (if you have one) can help with your appeal.
Retirement and fixed-term contracts
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has guidelines on retirement and fixed-term contracts. The guidelines aim to ensure that older workers who want to continue working are not discriminated against.
They also provide guidance on using fixed-term contracts beyond the compulsory retirement age.
Age discrimination in employment
Under employment equality legislation, you cannot be discriminated against on the grounds of age.
However, employers can set minimum recruitment ages of 18 or under and set retirement ages in employment contracts.
You can read more about age equality in employment.