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 the UK’s largest trade union with over one million women members. We have a proud record of campaigning with WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) for fair transitional relief for 1950s women who are facing hardship and poverty because of the Government’s acceleration in increasing their state pension age without adequate notice.
In addition, UNISON continues to support our key objectives of achieving decent occupational and state pensions for all our members, and in particular for many of our women members who have been left bereft of either a full occupational or state pension.
UNISON is the first trade union to affiliate to the official WASPI Campaign Ltd. UNISON recognises that there are several groups campaigning for pension justice for WASPI women. UNISON has developed its own work programme and training courses on women and pensions to build union capacity on pension issues.
We are aware that our members support different campaigns fighting for pension justice for women. The union intends to work with the WASPI groups including the Backto60 campaign, where appropriate, and where there is an alignment with UNISON policy.
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.
State pension inequality
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?
UNISON supports the equalisation of the state pension age between men and women but does not agree with the unfair way the changes are being implemented.
Men have had their state pension age changed too – why is this campaign just about women?
It is clear that women have been treated unfavourably compared to men in relation to the formal notice. Many women were given as little as one or two years’ notice of up to a 6 year increase to their State Pension Age while men received 6 years’ notice of a one year rise in their State Pension Age.
What’s the campaign about?
Ordinary women are 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.
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).
UNISON will continue to 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.
What action can I take?
As well as encouraging members to write to their MP, UNISON has been supporting members to make a complaint to the Department of Work and Pensions.
However, all complaints are now on hold pending a judicial review brought by the Backto60 campaign into unfair implementation of pensions equalisation, which will be heard at the beginning of June.
Once there is an outcome to the judicial review, UNISON will review the political strategy and consider next steps. In the meantime, please keep on highlighting the issues about the lack of adequate notice to your MP.