The Court of Appeal has ruled that women hit by the rise in the state pension age haven’t been discriminated against and won’t be reimbursed for the pension payments they have missed.
The women’s state pension age rose to 65 in 2018 to bring it in line with men’s state pension age. It is now 66 and will continue to increase until it reaches 67 for both men and women in 2028.
Women born in the 1950s argue that the changes weren’t properly communicated to them. Many assumed they would be able to stop work at the age of 60, only to discover that they now need to work until they are 65 or older before they can claim their state pension. A woman born in 1950 will have received her pension in 2010, but a woman born in 1955 won’t receive her pension until 2021.
The appeal explained
The appeal, which was paid for by crowdfunding arranged by the Backto60 campaign group, involved two women in their 60s who have been affected by changes to the state pension age for women.
Julie Delve and Karen Glynn took their case to the High Court last year, claiming that the changes to the state pension age were discriminatory on grounds of both sex and age. The two women argued that they weren’t given sufficient notice of the changes and wanted the years of state pension that women have missed out on to be repaid.
At the start of October last year, their claim against the government over the way the rise in state pension age had been introduced, was turned down. The two judges at the High Court ruled that the government hadn’t been sexist or ageist in the way it increased the state pension age for women to 65.
The judges also ruled that Parliament didn’t have to stipulate that women who were affected had to be written to so they knew when they’d get their state pension. Not surprisingly, many women were devastated by the result. The two women were later given permission to appeal the result, but earlier this week, have now lost this appeal.
As part of their latest ruling, the senior justices said: “Despite the sympathy that we, like the members of the Divisional Court (High Court), feel for the appellants and other women in their position, we are satisfied that this is not a case where the court can interfere with the decisions taken through the parliamentary process.”
They also said that it was “impossible to say that the Government’s decision to strike the balance where it did, between the need to put state pension provision on a sustainable footing and the recognition of the hardship that could result for those affected by the changes was manifestly without reasonable foundation.”
Economic challenges faced by women in their early 60s
Behind the headlines of the ‘equalisation of the state pension’ lies a complex web of circumstances that place many women in their late 50s and early 60s at a significant disadvantage to their male counterparts in terms of employment and pension savings.
Specifically, we know that the gender pay gap is at its widest for women in their 50s, and that decades of such a gender pay gap leads to a wide gulf in private pension savings between men and women. According to the Pensions Policy Institute, women in their 60s will on average retire with £51,000 of savings, compared to men who on average will retire with £156,000 of savings. Additionally, research by Scottish Widows found that women typically don’t take their fair share of pension savings following a divorce. Seven in 10 couples don’t consider pensions during divorce proceedings, the insurer found, leaving women short-changed by £5 billion every year.
For those keen, or forced to continue working, age discrimination in the employment market can also be a significant barrier. At Rest Less we refer to it as the final frontier of diversity in the workplace, meaning that talented workers in their 60s may struggle to find meaningful employment due to their age, even if they wanted to and are skilled to do so. There is additionally some evidence to imply that age discrimination may be felt harder by women, than their male counterparts.
In the last recession, women could retire and collect the state pension at 60. This is the first recession where women cannot retire until they are 66. Amidst the extremely challenging labour market we are facing, the court of appeal ruling could not have come at a worse time for millions of women in their early sixties.
How many women are affected?
Around 3.8m women born in the 1950s are impacted by the change to the state pension age for women, with many who were hoping to stop work at 60 having to postpone their retirement plans.
Between May and July this year, there were more than 5 million women aged over 50 in work – 1.3 million more than a decade earlier, according to Rest Less analysis of the latest Labour Force Survey from the Office for National Statistics. This represents an increase of 36%, compared to an increase of 24% amongst men in the same age group over the same time frame. The number of women aged over 65 and in employment has increased by 55% to 540,000, while the number of men aged over 65 and in employment has increased by 44%. However, the fact that growing numbers of women have been forced to go out and look for work in their 60s has also resulted in a large increase in the unemployment levels of women in this age group – up 128% between 2010 and 2019.
As well as Backto60, there are other groups campaigning on behalf of women affected by changes to the state pension age.
Waspi (women against state pension inequality) campaigners, for example, aren’t against the State Pension age for women being equalised with men, but are against what they consider to be the unfair way changes to the state pension age were implemented “with inadequate or no notice.”
If you’re not sure when you’ll receive your state pension, you can use the government’s state pension age calculator here. To find out more about the state pension, read our article on how the state pension works.
If you have been affected by the changes to the women’s state pension age and are seeking work, you can search for jobs in your local area here. You can also find information on benefits which might help you bridge the financial gap if you’re struggling to make ends meet here.
If you’re not sure whether you qualify, or don’t know how to start your claim, see our article on five free sources of help if you’re making a benefits claim. If you need additional support, it may be worth exploring whether you’re eligible for charitable assistance. Find out more about charities that help women in need.
Have you been affected by changes to the women’s state pension age? We’d be interested to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.