Can you help me regarding the date I have to retire. I started subbing, unqualified, in a primary school in 2001. New rules applied in 2012 that said I could no longer work if I wasn’t fully qualified. I met that criteria in 2012. In 2015, I got a contract of indefinite duration (CID). I am 64 now, and wonder do I have to retire at 65 or am I considered a new entrant?

Ms A.G., email

Trying to get your head around pensions schemes and retirement options in the public service can be a nightmare, especially for people like yourself whose career path does not follow the standard route.

However, it appears there are certain immutables, and one of those is that your start date in the public service is the day you started – regardless of your changing status. The only exception to this appears to be the position of people who left the service entirely for a minimum of half a year before rejoining.

In your case the different stages of your service are spread neatly across the three successive schemes governing public sector retirement and pensions.

Back in 2001, when you first started as an unqualified substitute primary school teacher, you would have been governed by rules in place for anyone who joined the service before April 1st, 2004.

In that month a new set of rules was put in place under the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provision) Act 2004, and these were overtaken again at the start of 2013 with the introduction of the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and Other Provisions) Act 2012.

Anyone with a gap of more than 26 weeks is seen as a new entrant if they join after the scheme rules have changed.

So what’s the difference?

Without giving any identifying details we asked the department for some clarity on your particular position. Obviously, with the sparsity of detail, they were above to provide only general information.

However, the key thing is that if you started working as a teacher before April 1st, 2004, even though you were unqualified at the time, you are regarded as a pensionable public servant from that point – as long as you received your salary through the department’s teacher payroll unit.

If that is the case and presuming you didn’t leave teaching for at least 26 weeks between April 1st, 2004, and the end of 2012, then you will have to retire at 65.

If you did take a break from teaching for more than half a year between those dates in 2004 and 2012 you would be considered a new entrant when you rejoined within that period – and there would be no compulsory retirement age at all.

If you did take a break from teaching for more than 26 weeks and did not return to teaching until after the start of 2013, then you come under the new single retirement scheme for new entrants post-2012 ,where the compulsory retirement age is 70.

As you can see, the fact that you moved from unqualified to qualified and then to a full-time contract of indefinite duration has no bearing on the issue. The only thing that is relevant is whether you left the public service for more than 26 weeks and then rejoined at some point in your career.

If not then you will have to retire at the end of the school year you turn 65. So if your birthday is before the end of August, you’ll have to retire at the end of this school year. If you have a birthday later than September 1st, you could work for another school year.

If you want a more precise and definitive fix I suggest you approach the department formally for a pension statement.

Please send your queries to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2, or email This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice

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