The New Retirement Code of Practice

Last updated: September 4th, 2023

Retirement was a much talked about HR topic in 2017 so it not surprising that the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) have published a Code of Practice on Retirement.

Codes of Practice are in place to set out written rules which define how persons or bodies must act in given situations. The Retirement Code of Practice sets out best practice on how to deal with the issue of retirement.

It addresses the “standard process for engagement between employers and employees in the run-up to retirement and responding to requests to work beyond the company retirement age.”

The Code sets out best practice over the following headings:

  • Utilising the skills and experience of older workers.
  • Objective justification of retirement.
  • Standard retirement arrangements.
  • Requests to work longer.

In Ireland, there is no standard retirement age in the public sector. Where an employer has an objective justification they can incorporate retirement ages into their company policies.  The code sets out that retirement ages are generally set out by means of;

(a) an express term in the employee’s contract of employment;

 (b) an implied term in the employee’s contract of employment;

(c) relevant policies, for example, a staff handbook; and

(d) custom and practice generally arising from the pension date set out in the relevant occupational pension scheme

If no retirement age exists in company contracts, handbooks or pension documentation the only way one can exist is through custom and practice, for example, if the company has consistently enforced retired at a particular age for a legitimate reason.

Objective justification of retirement

The question ‘what is an objective justification?’ arose time and time again since the enactment of the Employment Equality (Miscellaneous Provision) Act 2015.  The Employment Equality Acts prohibit discrimination on nine grounds, age, being one of the nine. Therefore an employer who forced retirement on an employee could be exposed to an equality claim on the grounds of age.

The Employment Equality (Miscellaneous Provision) Act 2015 set out that an employer could implement set retirement ages if;

  1. it is objectively and reasonably justified by a legitimate aim, and
  2. the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary

Case law over the last 18 months provided employers and HR professionals with examples of what the WRC deemed to be an objective justification. The code of the practice has also provided examples of what constitutes a legitimate aim by an employer;

  • Intergenerational fairness (allowing younger workers to progress);
  • Motivation and dynamism through the increased prospect of promotion;
  • Health and Safety (generally in more safety-critical occupations);
  • Creation of a balanced age structure in the workforce;
  • Personal and professional dignity (avoiding capability issues with older employees); or
  • Succession planning.

The retirement process

The Code also sets out that is best practice to notify an employee of your intention to retire them a minimum of 6-12 months before the date of retirement. Written notification should be given initially and the employer should also meet with the employee to discuss the matter face to face.

Requests to work longer

Careful consideration should be given to requests from employees to work beyond the company retirement age. The following five points should be adhered to by both employers and employees;

  1. The employee should make such a request in writing no less than three months from the intended retirement date to be followed up with a meeting between the employer and employee. This meeting gives both the employee an opportunity to advance the case and allowing the employer to consider it. It is important that the employee is listened to and that any decision made is on fair and objective grounds.
  2. The employer’s decision should be communicated to the employee as early as practicable following the meeting.
  3. Should the decision be to offer a fixed-term contract post-retirement age, the period should be specified, setting out the timeframe, and the legal grounds underpinning the new contract should be made clear (i.e. fixed-term contract). It is good practice to include a reference that the decision is made solely having regard to the case being made by the employee and does not apply universally.
  4. Where the decision is to refuse the request, the grounds for the decision should be set out and communicated in a meeting with the employee. This will help the employee to understand why the request has not been granted, and give the employee confidence that his/her case has been given serious consideration and that there are good grounds for refusing the request. The applicant should have recourse to an appeals mechanism, for example through the normal established grievance procedures in the organisation.
  5. An employee may be accompanied to a meeting by a work colleague or union representative to discuss a request to the employer to facilitate working longer and in any appeals process around same.

When employers are faced with a retirement situation it’s important they refer to the Code of Practice when making a decision. If the minimum standards outlined in the code are not adhered to, the company could be exposed to litigation.

If you have any questions in relation to retirement please contact the advice line on 01 886 0350.

Book a call with a consultant

Complete the form below and a consultant will call you as soon as possible.

Book a call with a consultant

Complete the form below and a consultant will call you as soon as possible.

Latest Resources

What happens when workplace romances go wrong

workplace romances gone wrong
First published: February 14th 2024 Last updated: February 14th 2024 Love makes the world go round, or so they say. But what effect does love […]

10 tips for handling an office romance

First published: February 12th 2020 Last updated: February 14th 2024 It’s estimated people spend a third of their life at work, so it’s no surprise […]

An employer’s defence to sexual harassment claims

Sexual harassment claims
First published: December 11th 2023 Last updated: December 11th 2023 While the vast majority of Christmas party celebrations pass off without any problems, there’s no […]

Olga Shevchenko

Director/Advocate, Immigration Advice Bureau

Olga Shevchenko specialises in immigration advocacy and consultancy, in particular, employment permit, visas, family reunification, citizenship, etc, for those seeking to visit, reside or invest in Ireland.

Olga provides extensive information, knowledge, and support to her clients, enabling access to positive solutions for people struggling to handle the immigration law.

Minister Neale Richmond

Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Neale Richmond TD was appointed as Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment with special responsibility for Employment Affairs and Retail Business and the Department of Social Protection in January 2023.

Much of his work at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is with businesses, workers, their representative bodies and the State Agencies to ensure that the economic recovery and growth extends to all parts of the country. He works closely with the SME sector, including retail, on building resilience and on the transition to the green and digital economies.

Mark Carpenter

Director of Regulatory & Corporate Affairs, Sky

Mark Carpenter is Director of Regulatory & Corporate Affairs at Sky Ireland. In this role he has responsibility for External and Internal Communications, Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs and the company’s ‘Bigger Picture’ (CSR) programme. He also works closely with Sky Group teams on a variety of matters, in particular our partnerships with domestic broadcasters.

Prior to working at Sky, Mark worked as a Policy Officer in Houses of the Oireachtas and as a Management Consultant at Accenture. He has a BA in History from Oxford University and a PhD in Political Science from Trinity College Dublin.

Nora Cashe

Litigation and Compliance Manager, Peninsula

Nóra studied Law in Griffith College Dublin and qualified as a Barrister in 2008, practising in the area of Criminal law. She is also member of the Irish Employment Law Association.

Nora has extensive experience representing clients at Employment Tribunal hearings, Conciliation / Mediation meetings before both the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court. 

Nóra is a member of the Irish Employment Law Association and engages with the WRC Adjudication Service as part of their stakeholder engagement forum.

Deiric McCann

Managing Director, Genos International Europe

Deiric McCann leads Genos International Europe – The EU division of a world-leading provider of emotional intelligence solutions. 

With over two decades experience at the highest levels of management, Deiric supports clients to develop the resilience, emotional intelligence, psychological safety and engagements of their employees.

Rhiannon Coyne

Senior HR Consultant, Graphite HRM

Rhiannon Coyne is a Senior HR Consultant at Graphite HRM and will be providing an overview of best practice on how to deal with complaints of bullying and harassment in the workplace. 

With a number of recent updates to employment laws, Rhiannon will take a closer look at employment equality and how it is interlinked to Health & Safety and what employers can learn from recent case laws.

David Begg

Chairman, Workplace Relations Commission

David Begg was appointed Chairperson of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in January 2021.

David is also a professor at Maynooth University Institute of Social Sciences. Mr Begg’s extensive history in the trade union movement included leading the ESB Officers Association and Irish Congress of Trade Unions, stepping away from the latter in 2001 to chair international aid agency Concern.

David Begg was also previously a director of the Central Bank of Ireland between 1995 and 2010.