There is no single retirement age in Ireland, although up to now 65 is generally regarded as the age at which most people retire. This is reflected in the Trust Deeds and Rules of most pension schemes, with normal retirement date usually being set at 65.
Many schemes, however, make provision for early retirement from age 50. Most also make provision for early retirement on the grounds of ill-health. The consent of the employer and/or the trustees of the scheme may be required before a scheme member can avail of early retirement, depending on the scheme in question.
In recent years, many defined benefit schemes have been experiencing funding difficulties and it is estimated that up to 75% of such schemes were in deficit at the end of 2009. This can have a knock on effect on early retirements within a scheme. Section 59G of the Pensions Act makes early retirement from defined benefit schemes subject to the consent of the trustees when the scheme actuary advises that the scheme would not meet the statutory funding standard, irrespective of the terms of any particular rule contained in the scheme.
Where a scheme is in deficit the trustees are expected to maintain the statutory solvency level. The trustees are not obliged to refuse consent but they may wish to do so in order to protect the benefits of other members of the scheme. In order to invoke this statutory power, the trustees must receive a statement from the scheme actuary. In light of the ever increasing number of defined benefit schemes in deficit, it is likely that we will see this power invoked with increasing frequency.