Thousands of education employees are having difficulty making decisions around retirement because education and training boards (ETBs) have failed in a legal obligation to provide annual pension statements.
A teachers’ union claims the staffing and IT issues blamed by boards do not excuse the problem, which it said adds stress to those considering whether to avail of early retirement options.
Since 2014, all public employers are obliged under Department of Public Expenditure and Reform rules to provide staff with an annual statement of their contributions to the public service pension scheme, as well as the pension and lump sum amounts accrued by them.
But most or all ETBs have failed to do so, an issue which was highlighted in recently-published 2017 financial statements of two boards. The 16 ETBs, created by amalgamations of 33 vocational education committees (VECs) in 2013, have around 28,000 employees.
The Kilkenny-Carlow ETB accounts, signed off in July, said it is not yet fully compliant with the obligation.
“This is an issue for all ETBs and is being pursued at national level, with a view to obtaining the resources required to resolve it,” the board’s internal control system statement said.
Galway-Roscommon ETB’s 2017 accounts said it did not meet its obligation to provide annual pension statements last year.
“This will continue to be a major challenge for GRETB until we have an IT system capable of generating pension statements and until all of our historical manual records are collated and inputted onto this system,” its internal control statement said.
It said pensions are a high-risk area for ETBs and the issue has been raised with the Department of Education by the representative body for the 16 boards, Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI).
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), whose second-level members work mostly in ETB schools, said the issue affects all employees but severely hinders planning for those approaching retirement.
“Many teachers enter the profession later in their working lives and will only receive a partial pension based on their term of service. Clearly, they need to know exactly what their financial situation will be upon retirement,” a TUI spokesperson said.
He said staffing shortages or IT problems do not excuse “the ongoing failure to meet this most basic of obligations to employees.”
“This deficit in service must be resolved as a matter of urgency.”
Nessa White, general secretary of the ETBI, said the lack of necessary IT systems mean all 16 boards are unable to provide annual pension statements to staff. But, she stressed, that pension statements are provided to anyone who requests them.
“Due to resourcing issues, requests are prioritised, based on an individual’s intended retirement date and their date of birth,” she said.
While some boards have payroll software systems that can generate statements when requested, staff must manually input details of an employee’s pension contributions and other information pre-dating the introduction of such systems. For other boards, the entire exercise needs to be done manually.
Under a contract agreed earlier this year by the Office of Government Procurement, a new payroll system will be introduced across all ETBs, beginning on a phased basis in two boards early next year. But historic details for each employee will still need to be inputted manually when each board starts using new payroll software.