The state pension age for women has risen from 60 to 65 in recent years, following a move for state pension age parity between men and women – which was reached in November 2018. The changes were detailed in the Pensions Act 1995, and reviewed in April 2016. The state pension age is now continuing to rise for both men and women, with the increase expected to reach 66 for both sexes as of October this year. This week, a judicial review into the changes to the state pension age for women took place at the High Court, with the campaign group Backto60 having sought to have the case heard.
The campaigners argue that raising state pension age for women “unlawfully discriminated against them on the grounds of age, sex, and age and sex combined”.
Representing the claimants, Michael Mansfield QC told the hearing: “Although the object of the exercise was intended to be equalisation of treatment, in fact what has happened is the reverse.”
Mr Mansfield also told the court that “the claimants and many other women born in the 1950s” had not been told about the changes “until shortly before their expected state pension age at 60” – causing “significant detriments” to many of them.
Sir James Eadie QC, representing the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), argued that the changes were intended to “equalise the state pension age between the sexes” and “to ensure intergenerational fairness as between those in receipt of state pensions and the younger taxpayers funding them”.
Sir Eadie added that the aim to increase the state pension age to 66 was to “make pensions affordable … and to control government expenditure at a time of great pressure on public finances”.
He also said that the Government took “extensive” steps to notify women of the changes – adding that “personal notification would have been very difficult if not impossible prior to 2003”.
Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, ahead of the hearing, Elaine Hague, 61, said she was “absolutely disgusted with the Government”.
She continued: “I’ve worked all my life, since I was 16, and I feel totally humiliated and degraded by the Government.
“The men I worked with were seen as the breadwinners, and they got company cars, occupational pensions, private healthcare – none of which were available to us.
“Now they’ve stolen our pensions – it’s degrading, it’s just common theft.”
Nicolette Collins, 63, from Kent, said: “We didn’t have any equality in our working life. I was asked at job interviews in the ’70s ‘When are you going to have children? Why should we employ you, because you will go off and have a family’.
“When I got pregnant, my job wasn’t held open for me.
“We have had the inequality throughout our working life and then, at the end of the day, you are suddenly told, ‘This is equality’ when they basically snatch £50,000 off you.”
Ahead of the judicial review, Joanne Welch, Campaign Director of Backto60, spoke exclusively to Express.co.uk.
She said: “50s women have suffered lifelong inequity, like the pension gap, the pay gap, the maternity gap. It’s like, ‘Mind the Gap’.
“You’d have to be a 50s woman to actually understand these gaps.”
Ms Welch added: “Men our age have got pension pots at least five times the size of ours, and that’s because primarily, 50s women – not necessarily younger women of today – stayed at home, looked after families.
“They were housewives. I know that generally speaking younger women prefer to mix the home with their careers, whereas 50s women were actually brought up to play these roles.”
The Campaign Director said on behalf of Backto60: “Nobody is whinging about that – that’s just the way it was. They were housewives and they were mothers at home.
“Some young people will choose those roles to play and that’s their prerogative, but what I’m trying to say is [that] when you take those roles, you get a disadvantage.”
In a statement ahead of the hearing, a spokesperson for the DWP said: “The government decided more than 20 years ago that it was going to make the State Pension age the same for men and women as a long-overdue move towards gender equality, and this has been clearly communicated.
“People are living longer so we need to raise the age at which all of us can draw a State Pension so it is sustainable now and for future generations.”