Not Enough Time: The Pensions Bill’s impact on women

This post originally appeared on Left Foot Forward.

Yesterday’s debate on the Pensions Bill was an opportunity for MPs of all parties to raise concerns about the numbers of women affected by the proposals to speed up the increase in the State Pension Age to 66. While the Bill was voted through its Second Reading stage, last night saw some concessions from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on supporting those most affected by the Bill’s provisions.

The current Pensions Bill proposes to increase the speed at which women’s pension age rises to 65 to equalise with men’s, a process that is currently in train, and then to bring forward the start of the rise from 65 to 66 for both men and women from 2024 under current legislation to 2018. As such, the proposals impact on nearly 5 million people across the country.

Age UK’s campaign, and those of other organisations, has emphasised the impact on women in particular of this change; while the new proposals will mean that no man will have to wait more than a year longer for his State Pension, half a million women will face at least a 12-month wait. 330,000 women will have to wait for 18 months, while the worst-affected 33,000 will have to wait for a full 2 years longer than originally promised.

Government arguments have centred on the idea that encouraging women to work for longer before receiving their State Pensions means that they can save more for retirement, making them better off. While true for some women, this simplistic assumption ignores the many women who are not able to work to 66. Our new report, Not Enough Time, finds that significant numbers of women in the age-group affected by these changes cannot work due to caring responsibilities for parents or grandchildren, health issues or unemployment.  Some have already retired, relying on small private pensions and savings to tide them over until they reach State Pension Age – savings that will not spread over an additional two years.

While the women affected broadly support equalising their pension ages with men, they feel that the proposed changes in the Pensions Bill are too far and too fast. Under the Pensions Act 1995, this same cohort of women accepted that their pension age would rise from 60 to 65, but had 15 years’ notice of the changes. These new proposals offer less than 7 years’ notice of another rise in the pension age. It’s no wonder that women are telling us that the goalposts keep being moved.

An equal pension is the goal, but the women disproportionately affected by this discriminatory Bill are starting from a low base. Many were excluded from workplace pension schemes for much of their working lives. The pay gap meant that they could contribute less to private pensions than their male colleagues. The median private pension wealth of women aged 56 is around one-sixth that of men, at £9,100 compared to £52,800 for a man of the same age.

Pensions Minister Steve Webb said last year; “In the past the pension system assumed that women did not need a pension, they needed a husband,”. But his Bill is currently penalising the women who fared worst from this old-fashioned thinking about pensions, at a time when they have far too little time to plan for a delayed state pension.

Age UK is campaigning for the Government not to start to raise the pension age from 65 to 66 until 2020 at the earliest, as per its promise to women in the Coalition Agreement. We will continue to work with parliamentarians of all parties to ensure that this Bill does not expect women born in 1953 and 1954 to shoulder a massively disproportionate burden.

8 thoughts on “Not Enough Time: The Pensions Bill’s impact on women”

  1. I am one of the woman affected by this – being born in May 1954 I am facing an increase of 23 months on top of the previous 4 years 1 months= 6 years total. I totally agree with this article. I understand why men feel it is unfair that women should receive their state pension earlier than them – that was already being rectified but at a pace women could cope with. In fact women born in May 1954 would already only be getting their pension 1 year earlier than men of the same age but are likely to have a much smaller occupational pension than them and have less savings due to having earned much less too. Accelerating this change by increasing the state pension age of women is not going to benefit these men but it is harming the financial security of these women who are already going to have only a small retirement income which Steve Webb’s proposals will reduce even further..

  2. I am also one of those women born in 1954 an thus affected by these changes. I believe there must be legal redress. Could the Government say they would pay no state pension with impunity? if not then there must be some legal entitlement/ protection.
    We must take legal action. I believe it is the only thing that will work.

  3. I am affected by this too, I was born at the end of April 1954 so am looking at another 1 year 11 months on top of the 4 we have already accepted. I am worried how women will be able to continue working to the age of 66, some of us have worked from 15 years old and in low paid, physically hard employment and we will struggle to manage those extra 2 years. I think we’re already doing our bit and I think it’s cruel to wait until so near to our would-be retirement ages and then move the goalposts yet again, Let those who want to work do so but we shouldn’t be forced to struggle on without enough notice to give us time to plan other ways to manage.

  4. so, I’ll finally get my pension after 51 years in employment (assuming I manage to stay in employment) yet we need only 30 years to qualify for a State Pension – who worked that one out. When I started work women retired at 60, wasnt amused when the powers that be decided to increase the pension age for women already in work and now they keep moving the goal posts. Is it their intention to increase the pension age on a regular basis so that eventually no one will live long enough to draw a pension – enough said.

    PS I lost my husband at the beginning of this year and was horrified to learn there is no Widows Pension – just a Bereavement Allowance payable for 1 year – so thats me penalised again, my husband paid NI Contributions all his working life and this is how we are treated. The more you pay in – the less you get out.

  5. Sheila, I’m so sorry for the loss of your husband, I understand your feelings, I was widowed in 2003 and also got a shock when I found out that widow’s pension had been stopped and replaced by one year’s allowance that wasn’t enough to live on. All our husbands’ contributions are gone, we have worked, and still are working, all our adult lives, we’ve already accepted 4 years being added to our retirement ages and yet it’s STILL not enough. Like you, if I’m lucky enough to live to draw my pension, if this cruel bill is passed I’ll have worked for 51 years, I too have questioned why the government’s website says we need 30 qualifying years and yet requires us to work 51. We seem to count for nothing except to be worked to death. This isn’t equality, it’s discrimination against women of our age!

  6. Surely this could be challenged in court on two count’s. Namely that it’s discriminatory to women having 2 years added to their retirement age, whereas for men it’s one extra year. Secondly, the time scale, introducing changes within 10 year’s of retiring. Like other angry women, I expected to retire at 60, and accepted the ‘phased’ in date. The government must remember why it was being phased in, it was intended to give us time to plan! How does it help women withdrawing the phased in date’s now we’re so close to retirement? I am so angry

  7. I am horrified by all of this. I was born in March 1954 so the worst hit, I wrote to my MP and got the ‘party line’ reply, saying that we live in tough times. I left school with good O Levels but married fairly young and did not go back to work when my children were born. I raised three children to be productive, happy and well educated young people, working part time/lowly paid jobs which fitted around their schedule. There was no help with child care in the 70’s and 80’s. I was never offered a private pension this was not the done thing then. We lived frugally and did not live beyond our means. I now have to look after an elderly and disabled mother so whether I wish to return to full time work to somehow pay more into the system I cannot. To top it all my husband has ‘lost’ most of his private pension to an American investment bank take over, poor management of the company scheme so all of those contributions have been ‘lost’. My husband is now seriously ill and continues to work to support us, the horror is that he may not live to see his pension. It would have been nice to receive my pension at the agreed date, as I am fully paid up according to the helpline and enjoy what ever time we have together. But no someone is messing with us yet again.I don’t think most women of our age realise what is happening and it is even hard to find on the Age UK site. ACTION LADIES.

  8. Marian, I’m sorry you’re having such a stressful time worrying about your husband, it’s disgraceful the way the government is treating us, we’ve already cheerfully accepted 4 years being added to our retirement age, surely that is enough – but oh no it isn’t – they want 2 more years now! I’m slightly younger than you, born in April 54 I have an extra 1 year 11 months hanging over my head, having worked since age 15 I feel as though by I reach 64 I’ll have more than paid my share. There has been a lot of action, with the help of Unions Together, Age UK and Rachel Reeves MP I’ve been to Downing Street with a 12,000 name petition which fell on stony ground, the latest effort in our campaign is here: which is an open letter to Iain Duncan Smith asking him just what these promised transitional arrangments are. I also wrote personal letters to Cameron, Clegg, Webb and IDS just last week giving a picture of the realities of life for a working 57 year old woman who is getting worn out.
    Time is running out but we’re NOT giving up, we have a Facebook group if you’d like to join, just look for “protest against proposed accelerated rise in womens state pension age” and you should find us. Onwards and upwards sisters!

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