High Court makes judgment in women’s state pension age case

The High Court has ruled against a discrimination claim bought by campaigners which challenged the government’s handling of the state pension age rise for women.

Since 2010, the retirement age for women in the UK has been increasing gradually from 60 to 65 to bring it in line with men, and will continue to go up to 66 by 2020, and to 67 by 2028.

While the move has resulted in state pension age equality, many women born in the 1950s argued that the way the rise had been introduced was unfair. This was because they were not given enough time to ‘top up’ their pensions for any years they were not working, or to make financial adjustments to cope with a sudden delay in their state pension payments of up to six years.

The High Court case had been brought by campaign group BackTo60, which estimated that up to 3.8m women had been affected, with those born from 1953 onwards particularly hard hit, because of the way the changes had been calculated.

However, in a summary of the court’s decision, the judges said: “There was no direct discrimination on grounds of sex, because this legislation does not treat women less favourably than men in law. Rather it equalises a historic asymmetry between men and women, and thereby corrects historic direct discrimination against men.”

AJ Bell senior analyst Tom Selby said of the judgment: “This ruling will come as a bitter blow to the millions of women who had been hoping the courts would roll back the tide on state pension age increases. The financial impact of having to wait up to six more years to receive the state pension is significant, and for many just scraping by it has pushed them into serious financial hardship.”

But Hargreaves Lansdown’s head of policy, Tom McPhail, noted: “The government will no doubt breathe a sigh of relief at this judgment, as any financial remedy would have cost them many billions of pounds to deliver.

“It is simply not possible to offset the combination of longer life expectancy, stagnant wages and low interest rates, without working longer and retiring for less time,” he continued. “The critical learning point from this court judgment is people need to prepare for retirement well in advance. It was this disconnect between these women’s expectations and their impending reality check of a later state pension which has resulted in the lawyers getting involved.”

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