Conservative think tank, The Centre for Social Justice, made headlines with its suggestion to increase the state pension age to 75.
The report, Ageing confidently – supporting an ageing workforce, recommended accelerating the increase in state pension age to 70 by 2028 and to 75 by 2035.
The authors said this would ensure that the Old Age Dependency Ratio “remained in the sustainable range of 20 to 25 over the next 20 years”.
Lessons from the 2011 Pensions Act
The report’s suggestion to dramatically hike state pension age with between nine and 16 years’ notice shows that the authors have not learned from past government mistakes.
Pensions are long-term savings that we make over an entire career. Given that the state pension is a fundamental part of retirement planning, people need plenty of notice about changes to state pension age.
In the 2011 Pensions Act, the Conservative-led government controversially accelerated the increases in state pension age for women born in the 1950s to achieve equalisation by November 2018.
The Act provided little notice for these women who had already seen their state pension age rise under the 1995 Pensions Act, with little direct notice.
However, it did commit the government to no further changes for those within 10 years of state pension age. Prospect believes that dramatic increases, such as those proposed by the CSJ, should have even longer notice.
Support for workers in their 50s and 60s
The report argued for greater support for those in their 50s and 60s to help them work for longer. Recommendations included:
- enhanced healthcare support through improvements in occupational health, training in mental health first aid and further support for those aged 55 and over from the Work and Health programme
- increased access to flexible working
- increased access to training opportunities through a proposed Personal Learner Account
- targeted promotion of the Access to Work scheme
- initiation of an ‘Age Confident’ scheme with guidance including: workplace flexibility, workplace adjustments, age discrimination, training and mid-life MOTs.
The suggestions to improve the employment prospects of men and women in their 50s and 60s are welcome. However these polices do not justify the proposals to dramatically hike state pension age.
The recommendations on mid-life MOTs and access to flexible working are not new – they featured in the 2017 Cridland report which the government endorsed and said it would implement.
The government should not need new justifications to get going on implementing these policies.
Indeed, it has already progressed plans for mid-life MOTs under the stewardship of the minister for pensions and financial inclusion, Guy Opperman.
The proposed ‘Age Confident’ scheme offers services that our members already enjoy by virtue of their Prospect membership.
While the report is right to highlight the mental health crisis in our workplaces, it fails to recognise that in many cases, work is the cause of it.
Although we welcome awareness raising and training line managers to recognise signs of distress, these measures only address the symptoms, not the causes.
They must be accompanied by preventive measures – an achievable and fulfilling workload, social support, respect, proper consultation and decent pay and pensions – in other words, decent work.
State Pension Age reviews
Under Section 27 of the 2014 Pensions Act, the government legislated for the introduction of state pension age reviews every five years.
These reviews, conducted by the Government Actuary’s Department, recommend increases to state pension age based on life expectancy forecasts to ensure that there is intergenerational fairness on the time spent in retirement.
This approach gives people enough time to adjust their retirement planning. It also prevents political policies from arbitrarily changing the state pension age based on flawed analysis.
That said, this system is not perfect and we have lobbied against government unfairly tinkering with the formula for state pension age reviews.
You can see our petition and the government’s response here.
You can also read more about state pension age reviews in our blog Is State Pension Age changing?