Women and pensions

UNISON is committed to trying to improve the pension rights of women who, for a number of reasons, typically save less for retirement than men.

As around 75% of our members are women, and because the gender pay gap becomes a pensions gap in retirement, this is clearly a big issue for us.

But there are other factors too. It is still true that women are putting everyone else’s needs before their own, especially when it comes to the cost of caring. Often, looking after their own retirement is at the bottom of a long list of priorities.

Research shows that:

  • only 52% of women are adequately saving for retirement in comparison to 60% of men
  • female pensioners have a net weekly income that is approximately 85% of their male counterparts
  • women account for approximately 61% of pensioners above state pension age
  • over two-thirds of pensioners living in poverty are women.

Changes to the state pension age have hit women particularly hard and cuts to public services have been shown to impact women much more than men.

This section contains advice for women on what they can do to get a decent income on retirement as well other pensions issues that relate particularly to women.

UNISON statement on women and pensions

UNISON is proud to support the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign for fair transitional arrangements for women born in the 1950s. Many UNISON women are adversely affected by this change to their state pension arrangements. The increase in the state pension age has left them bereft of income they expected in retirement at age 60. The lack of adequate notice of this detrimental change have left many working longer and living in poverty.

UNISON continues to work on WASPI related issues – campaigning for fair transitional arrangements remain a key priority. Members are actively involved and continue to engage with their local WASPI groups assisting members with their complaints and raising public and political awareness of the negative impact of this policy.

Our union is also working on the wider issue of state pension ages for all age groups. The current attack on good pension provision is particularly affecting the low paid, a high proportion of them are women.

Pensions training

UNISON is refreshing our campaign to protect good pension provision through engaging, organising and providing pension training for our members. Integral to this campaign is our regional training programme on both state and workplace pensions. This training has already been provided for at least 2 regions.

We will also be looking at issues related to the gender pension gap and what actions are required to close this gap.


WASPI campaign

  • So what exactly is the problem?

    The increase in the state pension age for women was introduced too fast and with too little notice to make the necessary life changes. All women born after April 1950 are affected, but women born between April 1950 and December 1959 have not had enough time to make alternative plans. Many were given as little as one year’s notice, and some did not receive a letter at all.

    Government advisors were clear that changes like this should only happen with at least 10-15 years’ notice but in practice, notification letters were only sent out to affected women 14 years after the 1995 Pensions Act in 2009.

    Many received this information with just one year’s notice of the change.

    Very many others received only 3, 4 or 5 years’ notice and many women report receiving NO letter at all.

  • Isn’t equalisation of state pension a good idea?

    The WASPI campaign is clear that it supports the equalisation of the state pension age between men and women but does not agree with the unfair way the changes were implemented.

  • Why is it worth making this complaint?

    It may be that the Parliamentary Ombudsman could recommend compensation for all women affected by the pension age changes, but there is no guarantee that this will happen. So, to be sure of receiving any possible future compensation, WASPI recommend that everyone affected should take action and send in their own complaint to the DWP.

  • What’s the WASPI campaign about?

    The Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign was started by five ordinary women fighting against the unfair treatment of women born in the 1950s (on or after 6 April 1950) through an increase to their state pension age.​​ The changes were drawn up with little or no personal notice, with a faster than promised implementation and without enough time for women born in the 1950s to make alternative plans. Thousands of women will not receive their state pension on the date they planned for, and will have to work longer than expected or could face financial hardship in retirement.

    For more information on who WASPI are and what they are doing go to http://www.waspi.co.uk/

  • Men have had their state pension age changed too – why is this campaign just about women?

    In terms of formal notice it is clear that women have been treated unfavourably compared to men. A large percentage of these women were given as little as one or two years’ notice of up to a 6 year increase to their State Pension Age, compared to men who received 6 years’ notice of a one year rise in their State Pension Age.

  • What has this got to do with UNISON?

    Many of our members are directly affected. UNISON also considers the state pension to be a citizenship issue that affects all our members, and is often involved in campaigns supporting fairer pension arrangements (see our web pages on pensions issues here).

    At our 2016 National Delegate Conference, UNISON members voted to formally support the WASPI campaign.

    UNISON will continue to support the campaign by raising awareness with our members and activists, by lobbying relevant government ministers including the Pensions minister, running workshops at UNISON’s Women’s conference and TUC conference, and organising state pension and workplace pension courses around the country.

    Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary has said:

    “The WASPI campaigners have worked tirelessly to show the impact that state pension changes will have on so many women – including many UNISON members. The government need to look again at the transitional arrangements for these changes.”

  • What action can I take?

    If you are affected by the changes and were born between 6 April 1950 and 31 December 1959 then there are many things you can do. You can join your local WASPI campaign group, write to your MP to ask them to raise the issue in any way they can, and you can make a personal complaint to the Department of Work and Pensions for maladministration.

    ‘WASPI women’ are beginning to overwhelm the DWP with their official letters of complaint, which form part of the legal action that WASPI is taking against the government. The WASPI campaign has developed guidance on how you can make a formal complaint to the government department responsible for this maladministration.

    If the complaints are successful, the Parliamentary Ombudsman can recommend that the government restore the women who have complained to the same financial position as if the maladministration had not happened.