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Ireland – Agency workers exempt from public sector retirement rules

09 July 2012

Agency workers are exempt from public retirement rules which restrict the pay that retired public service employees may earn should they return to State employment. The Irish Times writes today that these rules do not apply to workers provided by staffing firms, according to the Department of Public Expenditure.

These rules state that retired people re-entering public service are not allowed to earn more than their original level of remuneration when pensions and new payments are combined as in such cases the pension pay to the retiree is abated.

“Abatement applies to a public service pensioner who comes back to the public service. It does not and cannot apply to someone employed in the private sector and working on an agency basis,” the department said in a statement to the paper. Hence these abatement arrangements do not cover retired staff employed through an employment agency.

This comes after the Irish Government fully adopted the EU Agency Worker Directive this year, which set out equal payment between permanent and temporary staff.

In Ireland, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is the largest employer of agency staff in the public sector. Last year, agency costs at the HSE haven risen by +15% to €176.5 million from a year ago and in June the Irish Minister of Health, James Reilly, warned that unit costs for agency staff will increase further due to the Temporary Agency Directive.

The paper writes that senior management at the HSE discouraged retired employees returning to work in the health service as agency workers.

“On the question of previous employees returning through an agency, we checked the matter with the lawyers [and] legally there is nothing we can do to prevent it. It is discriminatory. We have acquired some agency staff. We try to discourage the practice but we cannot legally prevent them from returning,” said HSE national director Laverne McGuinness.

“We made contact with the various agencies to do the discouragement piece. We asked for and legally obtained advice that we cannot prohibit them going back via an agency.”

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