Civil servants to get six-month ‘grace period’ to decide on retirement

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Established workers in the Civil Service will be facing an increase in the age of their retirement — from 60 to 65 — when Parliament passes the Age Pensions and Grants Amendment Bill in May 2020.

This would be in keeping with the step taken by the Antigua and Barbuda Social Security Board (ABSSB) which, in January 2017, increased the age of retirement for pensioners under the scheme from 60 to 61, and has since gradually increased the pensionable age every alternate year, by one year. Presently, the ABSSB’s age of retirement is 62 and it will continue to increase to 65 by the year 2025.

At that time, Director of Social Security, David Matthias, indicated that pensioners who had already attained the age of 60 in 2017 had the option of deciding to wait until the following year to go into retirement. This arrangement, he said then, was dependent on the employer and the employee.

As the Bill was being debated in the Lower House of Parliament on Tuesday, MP Samantha Marshall explained that “the problem that we would face now is that individuals may not have planned [for unexpected change in the retirement age].”

The retirement age of the employee will “be in accordance with the corresponding pensionable age and pensionable year as set out by the schedule of the Social Security Age Pensions and Grants regulations of 2016,” Marshall added.

She said that another issue is that many people of pensionable age are, “retiring, but not able to receive their pension.”

With the pending changes, legislators have also sought to provide an option for civil servants reaching the age of retirement in the upcoming year, to be able to decide on whether they wish to continue with planned retirement with “full benefits” or whether they choose to stay in the Civil Service for another five years.

“The only concern [the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party legislators] have,” said Marshall, “is that because this legislation will pass, we have to allow for a grace period.”

This grace period, she said, will be for six months commencing May 1st, 2020.

“So there are persons now who may be retiring at 60. And if they have already planned for their retirement and they want to go home, or there’s another business venture that they want to engage in… so be it. But if they decide that they want to stay on with us [in the Civil Service], we’re happy to have them. And this is the policy.”

The amendment, Marshall outlined, also makes provision for workers who had made plans for early retirement at age 55.

“If you have served [33 and a-third years] and you’ve reached the age of 55,” said Marshall, “you can, therefore, apply for retirement; the process is the same.”

The “process”, as the MP outlined, would be to make application for retirement to the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda.

The St Mary’s South representative also stated that, after consultations with the unions, the Bill was met with no objections.

Both opposition representatives – Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Jamale Pringle and Barbuda MP Trevor Walker, had objected to the late submission of the Bill for the parliamentarians to review.

MP Walker went on to commend the Bill: “To come to the Parliament to address the pension age and to do the cosmetics on it is quite admirable… quite admirable. But the reality is, the pocket is not feeling [the changes made] in a timely manner.”

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