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Women lose Court of Appeal fight against state pension age rise

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Two women have lost their court case against state pension age rises that have hit millions of women born in the 1950s.

Julie Delve, 62, and Karen Glynn, 63, took the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to court, claiming that raising their state pension age unlawfully discriminated against them on the grounds of age and sex.

Nearly four million women born in the 1950s have been affected by the pension age equalisation, which raised the state pension age for women from 60 to as high as 66.

The pair, supported by campaign group BackTo60, lost their high court battle in October 2019 and today’s Court of Appeal judgment is a “crushing blow” to them and millions of other women who face having to work longer and wait years for the state pension.

The court unanimously dismissed the appeal, citing that adopting the same state pension age for men and women “does not amount to unlawful discrimination under either EU law or the Human Rights Convention”.

The judges also held that the publicity campaign undertaken by the DWP on the state pension changes had been “adequate and reasonable”.

Further, the legislation equalising and then raising the state pension age was “justified” as the government was faced with an urgent need to reform state pensions because of the projected increase in the number of pensioners, a decrease in the number of people of working age potentially contributing to the national insurance fund, the increase in life expectancy for both men and women, and the projected increase in state pension costs both in real terms and as a percentage of GDP.

“The many consultation documents published by the government before and after each successive Pensions Act show that the government had to weigh up many competing policy factors including that removal of the state pension from women aged 60 – 66 could cause hardship for some women as it had for the Appellants,” the judgment stated.

Turning to the claim of sex discrimination, the judges stated that like women aged 60-65, men also suffered an increase in their pension age from 65 to 66. The women claimed that the lack of state pension in those years affects women more disadvantageously than men because a higher proportion of women need the state pension to pay for basic living costs.

The judges disagreed: “The Court holds that there is no sufficient causal link between the disadvantage suffered by women and their protected characteristics of gender and age. Although many women in the appellants’ age cohort arrive at their 60s in a poorer financial position than men because of the effect of long-standing disadvantages in the workplace, this does not make it indirectly discriminatory to apply the same pension age to men and women.”

Joanne Welch, founder and director of BackTo60, said the fight isn’t over and told the BBC she would now consider taking the case to the Supreme Court and would also draft legislation to bring a women’s Bill of Rights.

Helen Morrissey, pension specialist at Royal London, said: “Today’s Court of Appeal judgment comes as no surprise but is nonetheless a crushing blow to those campaigning around changes to the female state pension age. While the decision to equalise state pension age across genders is the right decision there have been well known flaws in how these changes were communicated and a group of women have faced severe financial hardship as a result. Today’s judgement has gone in the government’s favour but they have huge lessons to learn from this.”