05:28, October 03 51 0 theguardian.com

2019-10-03 05:28:03
Women not entitled to pension age change compensation, high court rules

Almost 4 million women born in the 1950s are not entitled to restitution for money they lost out on when the pension age was raised from 60 to 66, the high court has decided.

The ruling means that none of the women – many of whom only found out their pension age had increased when they applied to draw it, or shortly before – will receive compensation for the money they lost.

“Many women did not find out about the changes to the pension rules until they went to get their pension or were finally sent an official letter 16 years after the changes were made, leaving them with no time to make alternative financial arrangements,” said Joanne Welch, from the BackTo60 campaign group that launched the legal case through crowdfunding.

“These are not women in their 20s who were ready for a fight: this battle turned women in their 70s into warriors.”

Two claimants took the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to court, arguing that raising their pension age “unlawfully discriminated against them on the grounds of age, sex, and age and sex combined”.

In a summary of the court’s decision, Lord Justice Irwin and Mrs Justice Whipple said: “The court was saddened by the stories contained in the claimants’ evidence. But the court’s role was limited. There was no basis for concluding that the policy choices reflected in the legislation were not open to government. In any event they were approved by parliament.

“The wider issues raised by the claimants about whether the choices were right or wrong or good or bad were not for the court. They were for members of the public and their elected representatives.”

On the first day of the landmark legal case four months ago, Michael Mansfield QC said: “Although the object of the exercise was intended to be equalisation of treatment, in fact what has happened is the reverse.”

He said women born in the 1950s had already suffered “considerable inequalities in the workplace”, which he said were the result of “historical factors and social expectations”.

The two judges had to consider both UK and EU law and the UK’s ratification by Margaret Thatcher of the UN convention for the elimination of discrimination against women (CEDAW), which specifies that women who have suffered discrimination must be fully compensated.

Women in their 50s and 60s were hit by the government’s decision under the 1995 Pensions Act to increase the female state pension age from 60 to 65. The change was to be phased in between 2010 and 2020.

The coalition government of 2010 then decided to accelerate the timetable. The 2011 Pension Act brought the new qualifying age of 65 for women forward to 2018. The qualifying age for both men and women will be raised to 66 by October 2020.

BackTo60 had argued that women were not given time to adjust to the new retirement age and that the changes in 1995 and 2011 had not been clearly communicated.

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