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Stop discriminating against 61+ public sector workers - Ombudsman

Pensions benefits given to private sector workers should be extended

Public sector workers who continued to work past 61 deserved the same benefits, the Ombudsman said. Photo: Shutterstock

Public sector workers who continued to work past 61 deserved the same benefits, the Ombudsman said. Photo: Shutterstock

Public sector workers are being unfairly excluded from pensions increases which private sector employees receive when working into retirement, the Ombudsman has ruled. 

Parliamentary Ombudsman Anthony Mifsud found that while private sector workers who kept working past retirement age benefited from an incentive which allowed them to boost their retirement pension, government workers were denied this right. 

The Ombudsman said this "amounted to an act that was improperly discriminatory" and told the government to take action to remove the discrimination. 

While the Ombudsman can highlight government shortcomings and chastise public authorities, his office has no enforcement powers and recommendations are not binding. 

The complaint stemmed from a government worker whose ears pricked up at a pledge made in the Budget 2016 speech aimed at boosting Malta's dwindling domestic workforce. 

During that speech, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna had said that "for those who stay in employment and do not apply for a pension when they are entitled to it, the rate of their pension will be increased by a percentage for every additional year they stay in employment, which higher rate of pension they will receive for the rest of their lives".

Private sector employees eligible to retire at 61 can get a 23 per cent pensions boost if they continue working until 65

The measure, which Prof. Scicluna had told parliament only applied to private sector workers who obtained their employer's consent, means that private sector employees eligible to retire at 61 can get a 23 per cent pensions boost if they continue working until 65.

Intrigued by this measure, the unnamed government worker - who was months away from retirement - enquired whether she too could benefit from it. When she was turned away, she filed a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman. 

Ombudsman Mifsud found that while the government had every right to show an employee the door once they reached retirement age, it could not keep them on public sector books while at the same time denying them benefits offered to private sector employees. 

After all, the Ombudsman noted, both categories of employees continued to pay their Social Security contributions. 

When the Ombudsman asked the government to explain how this two weights, two measures approach was not discriminatory, he received no reply. 

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