Majority of women lower pension payments due to caring duties

Majority of women lower pension payments due to caring duties

Women are concerned about their pension provision after having to reduce or stop payments due to going part-time or taking a career break, according to research by Working Wise.

The Gendered Ageism study of 1,356 older workers aged 45 and over, sponsored by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, highlights the scale of the pensions crisis facing women today — with 50 per cent of older females forced to keep working beyond retirement. 

This is because women who work part-time may not earn enough to trigger the £10,000 threshold for auto-enrolment or feel forced to reduce their pension contributions. 

Also, they may become self-employed to fit around their caring responsibilities and therefore are not eligible for auto-enrolment.

In the research, 83 per cent of respondents have worked part-time for at least one year, and more than a quarter of these worked part-time for more than a decade. 

Almost three-quarters of women said going part-time or taking a career break was the reason why they reduced their pension payments, while 64 per cent have previously stopped their pension payments completely due to these factors. 

These issues mean that more than half of women surveyed are worried that their pension will not be enough so they can be financially independent in retirement.    

Gillian Nissim, founder at Working Wise, warned as soon as women start taking on caring responsibilities their pensions begin to fall. 

She explained that women are more likely to have ongoing caring responsibilities that require them to reduce their working hours, work part-time or require flexible working.

“It is these necessities that are causing women to reduce or even stop their pension payments. These career decisions are then coming back to haunt women’s pensions in later life,” Nissim added.

Almost a quarter of respondents in the survey said they need more flexibility in their role. 

The pressures facing women are stark, with one in four respondents saying their employer is not supportive of older women in the workplace.  

Nearly a third of respondents who needed to get a new job in the past five years have found it challenging, and almost half cited ageism as the key factor holding them back from being hired. 

More than 60 per cent of women said their career progression has been affected by caring responsibilities, and 28 per cent blamed the menopause for stopping them from progressing further at work. 

Health is also a factor, with a third of women needing to reduce their hours at work because of a health issue.

There is also a lot of uncertainty and lack of knowledge around pensions, with 58 per cent of respondents saying they do not really understand their pension pots. However, only one in five employers offer pensions and financial awareness sessions.

The research also found just 12 per cent of employees said their employer has a published action plan to address the gender pay and pension gaps.

Nissim said there was an urgent need to make changes in the workplace to tackle the 37.9 per cent deficit that women face as they approach retirement. For example, increasing support for women with understanding their pensions.