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Women's state pension campaigners could take fight to courts

Campaigners against state pension age rises say Dutch court ruling shows government's actions are vulnerable to legal challenge.

Women's state pension campaigners could take fight to courts

The women battling state pension age rises are looking at taking legal action against the government after a Dutch court ruled in favour of a woman who fought to take her pension early.

In a House of Commons debate last week, Labour MP Barbara Keeley said it was a breach of the convention on human rights to raise the state pension age for women twice in quick succession.

The debate was secured after a campaign by women who have been affected – known as Waspi (Women Against State Pension Inequality) – who have seen their pension age rise from 60 to 65 and then from 65 to 66.

The first increase was passed in legislation in 1995 and sought to end inequality in the pension age between men and women. The second increase happened in 2011 after the Lib-Con coalition linked the state retirement age with increasing life expectancy.

One of the main concerns is that women were not informed of the increases and not given time to prepare.

Keeley, who is supporting Waspi in its attempt to force the government to make transitional arrangements for those born in the 1950s who are hit hardest by the rises, said: ‘Recently a court in the Netherlands ruled that raising the state pension age could be considered a breach of the European convention on human rights.

‘A women in her 60s appealed against a two-year increase in her pension age because it created an "individual and excessive burden" on her. The court found in her favour.’

Waspi campaign spokesman Chris Shaw, said the group had already enlisted the help of a barrister to determine the legal position and had not ruled out ‘putting in a class action’, where the Waspi women appeal as a collective rather than on an individual basis.

'Strong precedent'

‘The Dutch case could set a strong precedent,’ said Shaw. ‘We have engaged counsel to look at it and we are awaiting the barrister’s response.

‘I would not say [legal action] is the next step but it remains a possibility.’

Although the woman in the Dutch case was unwell and physically unable to work, Waspi said it would campaign for all women to be given transitional arrangements, not just those who could not work.

‘We still regard the state pension as an entitlement rather than a benefit, despite what the government’s official definition is,’ said Shaw. ‘We say that it should not be means-tested…and [basing transitional arrangements] on health is a type of means-testing.’

Waspi is aware a court case could drag on for years, moving past the state pension age of some of the women involved.

‘We would rather the government acknowledge that [the women] have a legitimate grievance and take swift and decisive action,’ said Shaw. ‘We do not want to see this dragged through the courts but we will if we have to.’

Keeley criticised the government for blaming increases in the state pension age on European legislation, saying that although countries were broadly moving towards higher state retirement ages there was no set timetable for doing so.

She said the EU directive on old age benefits ‘allows for different state pension ages’.

‘Indeed, article seven of the directive specifically states that the determination of the state pension age is the right of member states,’ she said.

‘A 2007 European Commission report confirmed that different state pension ages are allowed. Equalisation of state pension ages is therefore described as "an objective to be strived for".’

The Netherlands, Portugal and France have no current differences in state pension age for men and women but Austria and Hungary are equalising with long transitional arrangements.

The state pension will not be equalised in Poland until 2040, and not until 2044 in the Czech Republic, while Bulgaria and Romania have opted to retain different retirement ages for men and women.

Keeley said that other EU countries were helping women who will see their state pension age increased. ‘Other countries have had transitional arrangements, or have amended their legislation to help specific groups,’ she said.

‘The Netherlands has a bridge pension. Italy brought in extensive pension changes, but made exemptions for people who were made redundant or who had a defined level of contributions…the UK can and should put in place additional transitional arrangements to address the unfair consequences of this government’s Pensions Act.’

DWP scolded

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has meanwhile been scolded by MPs for failing to inform the women about their state pension increases.

Many in the Waspi campaign say they did not receive any communication from the DWP about the increase, with many only finding out about the first rise to 65 when they were told their pension age was being increased to 66.

Labour MP Frank Field, chair of the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, said ‘successive governments have bungled the fundamental duty to tell women of these major changes to when they can expect their state pension’.

‘Retirement expectations have been smashed, as some women have only been told a couple of years before the date they expected to retire that no such retirement pension is now available,’ he said.

He added that there were ongoing concerns about current pension age communications and the DWP needed to ‘hammer out a new pension entitlement notice and begin supplying all women with accurate information on their pension entitlement’.

18 comments so far. Why not have your say?

Rita phelan via mobile

Jan 11, 2016 at 17:31

Ross Altmann knows this is not true and WASPI have evidence against this its a coverup by this goverment.

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Michael Stevens

Jan 11, 2016 at 17:32

It is very fair to equal state pension ages by 2018 and increase both to 66 by 2020.

The age should be increased to 70 by 2040

When the State Pension was introduced in 1907, the age was 70 to obtain benefits.

Women have know about he increase for years, now the may have an extra year to plan and also have larger pensions

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Dennis .

Jan 11, 2016 at 18:39

Why is everyone suddenly saying that this is news to them. I knew about this years ago and I am not even female!

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Hampshire cynic.

Jan 11, 2016 at 19:11

I totally agree with MS and Dennis.

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geoffrey mulford

Jan 11, 2016 at 19:57

I think Cameron should play along with this and ask women to come up with a cut off date.

This would create so much in fighting the women would never be able to agree. I can imagine seeing women that are 8 months pregnent marching on downing street say why should my unborn baby have to work past 60.

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Jan 11, 2016 at 22:33

Some people in this forum keep saying that women have known about this for ages, maybe since 1995. What they are choosing to overlook is that the majority of the population are fairly financially illiterate, they do not follow the discussions or read forums and probably didn't even notice press articles 20 years ago, or understand their implications! That is why they say they were never told; they should have been given direct and personal notification of the changes and given the advice that they needed to take action and do something about it. It's not acceptable for them to only really find out after it's too late to make alternative arrangements.

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Dennis .

Jan 11, 2016 at 22:42

I agree that most people don't have a clue about anything that goes on in the world (most people evidently wouldn't recognise any politician apart from Cameron) and only read trashy papers full of stuff about Eastenders etc. It makes you wonder why they have a vote really.

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Nan via mobile

Jan 11, 2016 at 22:57

Taking pensions away from women in their 60s is unfair. We started work at 15. I'll have contributed NI for 51 years in 2021. Pensions are not benefits.

We had no maternity leave or equal pay in 1970. Long before any of you were born. Have some respect for British hard-working women the post war backbone of this country .

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mark antrobus

Jan 11, 2016 at 23:19

The real injustice not that the state pension age is being equalised too soon between men and women, but nearly 20 years too late. This could have been fully achieved within five years of the 1995 Act. Given that women have a higher life expectancy, there is no acceptable reason for any further delay. The state pension is a state benefit that is funded out of the National Insurance contributions being paid daily by the current working population, and it is unreasonable that they should have to keep paying for such preferential treatment. I do hope the government will stand up for these people.

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ali smith

Jan 12, 2016 at 11:51

Women working past 60 are paying towards the current pensioners and contributed to previous generations of pensioners over the last 40plus years, same as everyone else. When they get their state pension it will be their turn to be provided for in this way. ..

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jo via mobile

Jan 12, 2016 at 17:48

Why should we who have worked pay for those who have chosen never to work it would be fair if paid on actual contributions

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Jan 16, 2016 at 09:41

Women only want equality when the outcome is to their liking i.e. they want

a 'qualified equality' which in fact gives them preferential treatment.

Bearing in mind women live about 4 years longer than men, where mens SRA is 66 years , womens should be 70years to ensure equality of cost of men and women on the State Pension Scheme.

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DS via mobile

Jan 16, 2016 at 23:33

Given that the State Pension Age for women is rising 8 years to age 68 by 2046 (3 years for men), do the commentators think it is fair that three quarters of that rise (6years) is done within the first 4yr cohort of women i.e. those born between 1951 & 1955 and then after that 1 year per decade? Given that 1950's women a)were not personally informed and b)are the least likely group to have an occupational pension, due to lower wages, career breaks to have children, care for family etc. c) have had not just 1 pension increase but 2, this feels unduly hasty and very harsh on this group.

Its just not good enough to say that women should have known. This was only advertised in a very limited way and no letters sent out for 14years after the event.

We get informed from other government departments eg HMRC on the minutest change, and this is a huge life changing event, not just for the women concerned, but also for their partners, as people plan their retirement jointly.

Longevity has been quoted as the reason for this increase and the fact that women live longer, but longevity doesn't necessarily mean good health and this needs to be addressed. Its no good just expecting people to work well into their 60's if they just aren't capable, particularly people with physically demanding jobs. Many men also have this problem, and many men plan their retirement so that they can retire early at 60 with their wives.They have had all of their lives to do this. Women, even if they knew, would have had much more difficulty accruing a pension pot to cover an extra 4.5 years, and then another 18months (added only in 2011), having to cover, in effect, £36,000

There are many women now in severe financial hardship, and couples feeling the pressure also.

People aren't just statistics, they have real life problems and this is one that needs addressing.

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BevR via mobile

Jan 19, 2016 at 13:51

I get my state pension in 2018 when I am nearly 65. My friend who is 6 months older than me gets hers this year 2 years before me. How is that fair and I get the same pension under the new scheme as the old

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Feb 03, 2016 at 20:22

Whilst it cannot be argued that women didn't know the rise was coming it does seem the transition is unfairly steep. Women caught in this situation not only have to wait longer for a pension and have to contribute longer but will certainly not live any longer. So its a triple whammy for the Government. A less of a step change transition could have been engineered. I am surprised the Corbyn bandwagon hasn't jumped on this one given the anti-Cameron potential votes available.

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Hilly via mobile

Feb 09, 2016 at 23:53

The 2011 changes were very badly handled. Women were not made aware of the impact of that act. The changes in contributions requirements were introduced much too quickly and unfairly affect a section of society that has already shouldered a pensions loss burden. The SERPS restriction is outrageous and make a complete lie of the guarantees that were given 30 years ago when women in particular were encouraged to opt out. Have the men making derogatory comments here checked their own state pension forecasts? Or are you assuming, as many women in their mid 50's in 2011 did, that you have done your homework and all is well? Think again and check carefully, very carefully.

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Chrissy via mobile

Feb 21, 2016 at 21:08

The men on this forum are missing the point. How would they like to be told that their retirement age is 71 (65 plus 6), with as little as 2 years notice. This has happened to many women. Not letting them know individually seems like a deliberate act on the part of the DWP. I agree that men should have equal treatment. But women were not given fair notice of these changes.

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Anonymous 1 needed this 'off the record'

Apr 04, 2016 at 14:23

I would like to fight this. I am so angry! I have kept my name private as I do voluntary work and don't want to be recognised.

My husband is almost 5 years older than I and we always planned to retire together in 2015. I now have to wait another 6 years when he will be less able to enjoy our time together (and so may I). They gave me no warning of this - just decided, and I read it in the press.

I currently have no income because of my health - cannot even claim PC as men can do.

We have less than 1K coming in per month and the government is benefiting from the 45K they are saving by not paying me the money I earned and expected.

Bring it to court! I'm up for it!

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