Women across the nation are likely to be united in their disappointment in the Court of Appeal’s decision to disregard campaigner’s accusations of discrimination after their state pension age was risen to be the same as a man’s.
The case in question which we will be focussing on in this article is *R (on the application of Delve and another) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
What is a state pension?
In brief, the state pension is a regular payment from the government which most people are able to claim when they reach the qualifying age. A person’s state pension age depends on when they were born.
For example, if a person was born in 1977, they will reach state pension age in 2044. But if they were born in 1959 they will reach state pension age in 2025.
You can find out your State Pension age by using the calculator on the GOV.UK website.
The Pensions Act 1995 changed the age a woman could begin collecting her state pension from 60 to 65, matching the male age, from April 2010 to 2020.
The Pensions Acts of 2007, 2011 and 2014 then accelerated this change, raising the state pension age for some men and women born in certain years to as high as 68.
What did the claimants take issue with?
The primary issue the claimants (who are two women born in the 1950’s) took was that the changes to the pension age limit discriminates against women, both in terms of age and gender. They believe this to be the case because many women, especially those born in generations such as the 50s, 60s and 70s, were not in an equal economic position to men, and could not get the same types of jobs.
Essentially, their challenge to the legislation was that although one of the aims of PA 1995 was to end the gender based discrimination that had previously allowed women to claim their pension five years earlier than men, this equalisation had come before actual improvements in the economic position of women in their age group.
They also deemed it grossly unjust that women born between 6 April 1950 and 5 October 1954 are able to access their pension between the ages 60 and 66, while women born after 5 October 1954 but before 6 April 1960 must wait until they reach the age of 66 to receive theirs. Their argument is that not enough difference exists between these age groups to make the change in legislation reasonable. They further argued that the affected women were not given enough notice to prepare for up to six years extra without their state pension.
Their plight was backed by a huge amount of people, as an estimated 3.8 million women born in the 1950s have been impacted by the outcome of this case.
How did the Court of Appeal respond?
To put it plainly, the judges unanimously decided the claimants did not face discrimination on the grounds of sex and age when the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) raised the state pension age.
To add insult to injury for the women affected, the government welcomed this ruling, saying the changes were a “long-overdue move towards gender equality”.
The reasoning behind the ruling was that there is a need to equalise the age of state pensions as men and woman become more parallel according to their career and payment options. They conclude that it is impossible to say that the decision to ‘strike the balance’ where they did was made without ‘reasonable foundation.’
A key part of the claimant’s argument was that the changes to the legislation were made swiftly, leaving the women affected little time to prepare for life without access to their pension. This part of the argument was also disregarded as inconclusive.
There has clearly been widespread disappointment and concern. Joanne Welch, founder and director of BackTo60 (the campaign group leading the opposition to this legislation), has said she would now consider taking the case to the Supreme Court and will draft her own legislation to bring a women’s Bill of Rights.
What do we think?
Here at Lisa’s Law we understand and appreciate the importance of gender equality. It is difficult not to feel sympathy with the women affected by this legislation; we fully understand their anger and disappointment. It is clearly true that women, on the whole, have historically been paid less than men. While thankfully this is changing, slowly but surely, we do feel that the situation could have been handled differently, or some additional support could have been given to the affected women to help bridge the gap in a more even manner.
It is likely that this case will be reignited in some way in the future, and we will be sure to report about it once more when it does.
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