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3 Oct 2019

Defeat for women in state pension age battle

Judge rules in favour of government in women's fight for a fair state pension

Women born in the 1950s won't be entitled to claim compensation for changes to the state pension age, the High Court ruled today.

The BackTo60 campaign group brought the case against the government, challenging increases in the state pension age that meant some women would need to wait up to six additional years for payments. The group sought restitution of state pension backdated to age 60, the original age they were due to receive it.

However, the Court found in favour of the government, which argued the changes were necessary to equalise the age between men and women.

Find out how the court case played out and when you can claim state pension.

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High Court state pension battle

The verdict comes after a two-day judicial review at the High Court back in June of this year.

Michael Mansfield QC represented the BackTo60 campaign group, and the nearly 4m women who were affected by the change in government policy.

His main argument was that raising the state pension age (SPA) discriminated against these women on the basis of their sex and age, when they have already suffered workplace discrimination.

However, the judges ruled in favour of the government, saying: '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.'

Why BackTo60 campaigned

BackTo60 has campaigned on the premise that pay for women was often lower than that for men, and many women took breaks from work to bring up children. This means that not receiving their pension at 60 has had a disproportionately harsh effect, BackTo60 argued.

The plight of those affected was initially taken up by a group called 'Waspi' - Women Against State Pension Inequality - which launched its campaign in 2015.

Women hit hardest by the changes are likely to be devastated by the High Court result, with many having suffered financially. Which? spoke to some of these womenin the run-up to the hearing in the High Court.

Michaela (64) from South Wales told us: 'The news that I wouldn't be getting the state pension has had a dramatic impact on my life. I had planned to retire at 60. My husband is 11 years older than me and only receives a small miners' pension and the state pension.

'We would barely survive on this. This all means that I've had to continue to work, otherwise we would be in a desperate situation.'

The government argues for equality

The verdict will be met with relief by the government and Department for Work & Pensions (DWP), who opposed the case.

Governments have long argued that the age rise is justified on the grounds of inter-generational fairness, and addresses inequalities between men and women's state pension ages.

A DWP spokesperson told us: 'The government decided more than 20 years ago that it was going to make the state pension age the same for men and women as a long-overdue move towards gender equality, and this has been clearly communicated.

'People are living longer, so we need to raise the age at which all of us can draw a state pension so it is sustainable now and for future generations.'

How did the state pension age change?

Until 2010, women received their state pension at age 60, while men received theirs at age 65.

A phased timetable rapidly raised the state pension age for women from 60 to 65 between 2010 and 2018.

The state pension age is now rising again, from 65 for both men and women to 66 by 2020, and then to 67 by 2028.

What is my state pension age?

The age you'll start to receive the state pension will depend on when you were born.

You can use our state pension age calculator to work out when you're likely to qualify.

To receive the full state pension, you'll need to have made 35 years of National Insurance contributions. You can find out more in our guide to how much state pension you'll receive.