As noted in our article outlining 2018 Irish employment law trends and our recent article discussing the Valerie Cox v RTÉ Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) decision, age in the workplace is a hot topic that will continue to be debated throughout 2018.

The recently published Retirement and Fixed-Term Contracts Guidelines (the "Guidelines") by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) add weight to the current debate and, more importantly, offer clarity to Irish employers on their rights and responsibilities around providing fixed-term contracts to employees beyond their retirement age.

The Guidelines clarify that fixed-term contracts can only be offered where an employee is actually subject to a mandatory retirement age. They also clarify the extent that the objective and reasonable justification exemption under the Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2015 (the "Acts") can be used; firstly, to set the retirement age, and secondly, to provide fixed-term contracts post-retirement age under section 6(3)(c) of the Acts.

The Guidelines should be read in conjunction with the Code of Practice on Longer Working by the WRC which was enacted as a code of practice for the purpose of the Industrial Relations Act by SI 600/2017. This Code of Practice gives guidance to Irish employers on dealing with requests for working beyond the mandatory retirement age and on the introduction of pre-retirement HR procedures.

The Guidelines relate to a specific issue in the active aging debate but add to the commentary concerning active aging in the workplace and the mandatory retirement age in particular. With CSO research from 2016 indicating that just under one third of the Irish working population in 2026 will be aged 50 and over this is an issue which will continue to grow debate.