Women who challenged changes made to the state pension age have lost their case in the high court today.
These women had argued that the decision to raise the retirement age for women from 60 to 65 — in line with men’s SPA — and then to raise the joint SPA to 66 by 2020 was unfair as they were given insufficient time to prepare.
But the judges ruled that these changes were not discriminatory, either in terms of gender or age.
The judges ruling said: “There was no direct discrimination on grounds of sex, because this legislation does not treat women less favourably than men in law. Rather it equalises a historic asymmetry between men and women and thereby corrects historic direct discrimination against men.”
Until 2010 women received their state pension at the age of 60 but this has been rising incrementally since then.
These changes have particular affected women born in the 1950s. It was estimated that 3.8 million women were in this position, with some potentially losing out on more than £40,000.
A campaign group – Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) was founded in 2015 to fight these changes. This case was brought by the Backto60 group which was seeking repayment of all the pensions people born in the 1950s would have received if they had been able to retire earlier.
Hargreaves Lansdown head of policy Tom McPhail says: “The Government will no doubt breathe a sigh of relief at this judgement, as any financial remedy would have cost them many billions of pounds to deliver.
“Given most of the women involved are now already past their revised state pension age, it is hard to see where the campaign will go from here.”
He adds: “The critical learning point from this court judgement is people need to prepare for retirement well in advance. It was this disconnect between these women’s expectations and their impending reality check of a later state pension, which has resulted in the lawyers getting involved.”
Aegon pensions director Steven Cameron adds: “If starting with a blank sheet of paper, very few people would argue that males and females should be treated differently, whether in terms of pay or in this case state pensions.
“The problem is whenever changes are implemented to address an inequality, one party tends to be ‘disadvantaged’ by the change, relative to the other.
“The millions of women affected by the increase in state pension age have had to face a significant change to their lives and retirement aspirations. For such a huge change, there needs to be very clear, timely and personalised communications and clearly there were failings here.”
But he adds that without these changes there would be a “massive and unsustainable extra burden on the working age population who NI contributions pay today’s state pensions.”
Cameron adds: “In an era where private pensions now offer the flexibility to take as much or as little out from as early as age 55, there would be merit in offering not just affected women but everyone the option to take their state pension a few years early, subject to it being set at a reduced level to reflect it being paid for longer.
“While many would argue this doesn’t go far enough to address the hardship a generation of women are facing, it would at least offer more options to choose from.”