Rehiring retirees: Bad practice but not extensive

Wednesday 6th June 2012

Delegates at IMPACT’s recent conference passed motions condemning the practice of rehiring retired public servants at a time when nearly 437,000 people are out of work. The union has been particularly critical of the Department of Agriculture, which continues to engage retired vets as contract meat inspectors despite spending considerable sums training existing staff to do the work much more cheaply.

However, the figures available suggest that just 4% of the 8,000 who retired before the February 2012 deadline have been rehired, virtually all on short-term contracts.

Figures obtained by Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher through parliamentary questions last month show that only 90 retired civil servants have been rehired recently. And almost 60 of these are the vets, who were not rehired following the February 2012 public service retirements but as (albeit indefensible) ongoing agriculture department practice.

In fact, just 35 of the February civil service retirees were taken back, mostly on short-term, temporary or part-time contracts. These included a chief medical advisor in the Department of Social Protection and a prison governor – both re-hired on a temporary basis because of long replacement lead-in times.

In a move that was well flagged prior to the February retirements, and which most people supported, about 250 teachers were retained until the summer to give continuity to exam students.

And the respected journal Industrial Relations News reports this week that the HSE has rehired just 39 retirees this year – or less than 1% of the total 4,326 health service staff who left by end of February. Most of the staff, made up of 17 doctors, 18 nursing staff, one attendant and one administrator, have been rehired up to the end of this month or until such time as a replacement is found. There is no evidence that any retired Gardai or defence forces staff have been taken on in recent months.

The number of temporary re-hires is a fraction of the additional staff – up to 3,000 – that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has said can be hired on a permanent basis where vital posts have been left vacant following the February retirements.

The State still makes savings when retirees are rehired on a temporary basis. The staff concerned are subject to an additional 10% wage cut, on top of the average 14% imposed on all public servants, because they are classed as ‘new entrants’. They also have their pensions ‘abated’, which means that the combination of pension payments and salary can’t exceed their pre-retirement salary.

Because the pension payments are foregone forever, the marginal cost of hiring a retiree, in terms of the overall pay and pension bill, is often lower than that of taking on a new entrant. Nevertheless, IMPACT believes better planning could have avoided even the small amount of temporary rehiring that has occurred and says many vacancies can be filled by redeployment, as provided for under Croke Park, or by hiring school leavers, graduates or unemployed workers.

Industrial Relations News was the source of some of the information in this article. Go to