Ageism and pension changes: a double whammy for women

Laura Hunter talks about how the equalising of the state pension age has hit her and how she is struggling to find work in her 60s due to ageism in the recruitment process.

Older lady sits in armchair looking pensive


I’m due, at long last, to collect my state pension during the early part of next year, January 2024, after a wait of six long years. Six long years of trying to obtain meaningful employment, six long years of experiencing instances of age discrimination in recruitment, retention and generally how you are treated, especially within interim contracts (for example, I joined as a project manager in one only to have my role suddenly changed to that of a gofer taking notes at meetings!). This was just one of many negative employment experiences.

The protected characteristic of “age” is one that is often ignored, both in recruitment and employment. This last year has been a particular struggle, trying unsuccessfully to obtain paid employment, whilst, like so many, dealing with the ever-increasing cost of living.

Nearly every routine administration/project officer/manager role now seems to demand the applicant be a data analyst and/or formidably educated to degree level. It is as if the motives behind these unrealistic demands are to help exclude people over the age of 50, both men and women.

Pension changes

I stress that this article is neither politically motivated, nor am I affiliated to any of the women’s groups campaigning on behalf of 1950’s women. I merely want to outline my own experiences, rather than bang any political or campaign group’s drum. From my viewpoint, there are too many groups, too many expensive lawyers involved, too many court cases, and little resolution in sight after an inordinately long length of time, which is not the fault of any campaigners. In my view, however, some of these groups have muddied the waters considerably, away from the basic tenet that I and other 1950’s-born women were not notified and that the legislation was brought in without adequate communication. No government, of any political persuasion, is likely to legislate now to reduce the state pension age for women to 60. I also believe, and I sincerely hope that I am wrong in this, that there is little political appetite from any of the parties, including the Government, to offer compensation to the women concerned such as myself. But, as I say, I wait to be proven wrong.

I don’t recall ever receiving correspondence from government agencies nor seeing any other communique regarding pension changes. Although there was hardly any social media/internet/email in the 1990’s this isn’t an excuse for little or no communication; the changes could have been disseminated via a range of means: posters in post offices, notification on child benefit books, P45’s, salary slips, plus notification to HR departments, let alone articles within the national news media and on television. Plus, many divorce lawyers were also not aware of the sudden changes.

Financial decisions

I made certain financial decisions when younger and married that I would not have made had I been aware of the 1995 changes to pension rules: one was not joining my employer’s pension scheme as I believed (as millions of women did) that I would receive my state pension at 60. I only joined a local government scheme in my early 40’s;

The other was being talked by an ex-husband into investing in a derelict property abroad, which was sold at a loss once we divorced.

As a child of the 1950’s this was a time generally when children and young people were not listened to and the views of adults reigned supreme. Unless born into an affluent and/or academic family it is likely that you were not encouraged to pursue an academic life; your parents wanted you to enter employment as soon as you left school. I fought my mother to pursue and pass my A levels. The world of work was a very different world to what it is today: options available for working class/lower middle-class schoolgirls in general followed the paths of retail, factory, clerical assistant and shorthand typist to name but a few. The work environment was also so totally different to how it is today. I wasn’t encouraged to access further education. I married (wrongly) to escape an unhappy home life. Paradoxically, my own mother spoke interminably of whether she would receive her pension at 60. How would I as an 11-year-old have known anything about pensions. I only knew that as far as I was ever aware my mother had never worked, nor had my aunts or other female family members (from the generation born during the First World War). I, like many of my contemporaries, have now worked for over four decades.

Struggles to keep working and to find work

I realise this won’t be a popular sentiment but not every man is a company director. There must be many men in manual professions who are struggling to keep going until 66 years of age, let alone 67 and 68, once the further state pension age entitlement changes are introduced. I really don’t know how anyone whose job involves very physically demanding manual work will be able to continue working until 68. It is a struggle for many, including myself, to have kept going until 66.

The government opt-in pension scheme was not introduced until 2012, far too late to help or offer alternatives to the millions affected by the 1995 legislation and should have realistically been considered as part of an impact analysis on the women affected before the changes came into effect.

Incidentally, successive governments failed to rescind this legislation and publicise the changes, or offer any compensatory package for the complete lack of notice of major changes in pension age entitlement.

What is also concerning for me is the gradual eroding of help and assistance to the over 60’s, for example, the possibility of the present or any future governments raising the bar for free eligibility for prescriptions in line with the state pension age. In addition, the raising of the bar to 66 years of age for concessionary bus passes is dependent upon the individual local authority. This is made worse by the increasing difficulties faced by older workers to get recruited. Future older workers could suffer further once the state pension age increases to 67 between 2026 and 2028, and then to 68 between 2044 and 2046.

*Laura Hunter has been an interim project manager within the public sector for over 20 years, delivering a wide range of housing capital, Decent Homes and major works contracts from inception to completion and handover in addition to supporting workstreams for transformation and change programmes. She has previously written about her struggle to find a job in her 60s.

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