Pensions and disabled members

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2012 Health Care Service Group Conference
16 December 2011

Drawing a pension is an important part of financial independence in older age. For disabled workers low pay, periods of unemployment, the additional costs associated with being disabled and rising living costs may make it seem too expensive to join – or to stay in – an occupational pension scheme. Government attacks on our pensions – making us work longer and pay more in contributions, only to get a smaller pension adds insult to injury as the money that will be taken away from us in ‘savings’ will simply go towards paying for the crisis caused by the bankers – not to improving our pensions. Disabled members cannot afford to see their inheritance stolen to bail out the bankers who created the financial mess. The attack on our pensions is not the only attack that disabled workers face, but it is potentially the most serious extension to our working terms and conditions.

Occupational pension schemes are a major part of our inheritance:

• They provide for a basic level of security and dignity in retirement.

• They help to keep down welfare benefit costs and pressures on the NHS.

• They help the economy by investing billions of pounds in industry and jobs.

• Disabled members who are not in a pension scheme are losing pay by missing out on a very significant employer contribution to deferred pay.

Disabled members are very concerned that they may find themselves living in retirement poverty because they:

• Find themselves retiring early on ground of ill health or disability, with fewer contributions leading to full pension provision.

• Are more likely to request reduced paid working hours as a ‘reasonable adjustment’ under the ‘Equality Act’ and therefore will experience lower pension income.

• Are likely to have had disability related breaks in service, periods of unpaid voluntary employment or general unemployment and have a lower standard of pensionable income.

• Are less likely to be able to save towards the cost of retirement years due to higher costs of living with disabling barriers during working years.

This conference calls upon the Health Service Group Executive to liaise with the National Disabled Members’ Committee to produce guidance for branches to:

1) Keep members informed about the disability implications of public service pension cuts.

2) Encourage disabled members to join occupational pension schemes.

3)Negotiate best practice to protect terms and conditions of service that have an impact on the value of disabled people’s occupational pensions especially in relation to early ill health retirement, reduced working hours and the impact of working later years on disabled workers.