State Pension  

Women state pension age challenge dismissed in court

Women state pension age challenge dismissed in court

The High Court rejected claims that the increase in the state pension age affecting women born in the 1950s was discriminatory.

In a judgment handed down today (October 3) at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Lord Justice Irwin and Justice Whipple dismissed claims of age discrimination, sex discrimination and lack of notice.

The judicial review, which took place in June, was brought by two claimants - Julie Delve, 61, and Karen Glynn, 62 – who argued that raising their pension age "unlawfully discriminated against them on the grounds of age, sex, and age and sex combined".

On age discrimination, the court rejected the argument that the legislation breached the European Convention on Human Rights, on the “basis of case law which establishes that a state can introduce a new legislative scheme which effects changes from a given date based on age”.

The judges also concluded that 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”.

Plans to increase the state pension age were first announced in the Pension Act 1995 but these changes were accelerated as part of the Pension Act 2011.

Campaign groups The Women Against State Pension Inequality and Backto60 have claimed these changes were implemented unfairly, with little or no personal notice.

The groups, which are calling for compensation for those affected, have also claimed that changes were implemented faster than promised with the 2011 Pension Act and left women with no time to make alternative plans, leading to devastating consequences.

Regarding lack of notice, the High Court ruled that the “government engaged in extensive consultation with a wide spread of interested bodies before the legislation was introduced”.

It also stated that parliament chose not to include specific notification measures in the legislation, so “a failure to give notice could not abrogate the statute”.

The judges said they were saddened by the stories contained in the claimants' evidence, but said the court’s role was limited, since “there was no basis for concluding that the policy choices reflected in legislation were not open to government".

“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,” the judgment stated.

Commenting on the decision, Tom McPhail, head of policy at Hargreaves Lansdown noted the government “will no doubt breathe a sigh of relief at this judgement, as any financial remedy would have cost them many billions of pounds to deliver”.

He said: “Given most of the women involved are now already past their revised state pension age, it is hard to see where the campaign will go from here.”