Pensions under scrutiny as women and civil servants are short-changed

The thorny subject of pensions was thrust back into the spotlight last week as unions called on the Government to provide more support for women, and criticised plans to end final salary pension schemes for civil servants.

The TUC warned that women are being badly let down by the current pension system, and called for major reforms. It said that a combination of low pay, part-time work, non-pensionable jobs and shorter working lives mean that women are being short-changed.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Our pensions crisis has a female face, with women being penalised for taking time out to bring up their children.”

The TUC report makes a number of recommendations, including a compulsory system where staff and employers are all forced to pay into schemes, and an end to the ’25 per cent’ rule that prevents women with less than 10 years worth of National Insurance contributions from receiving any state pension.

Meanwhile, government plans to end the final salary scheme for civil servants and switch them to a scheme based on average career salaries have come under attack.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis warned that the Govern-ment will face stiff opposition to its proposals. And the TUC held a meeting yesterday to assess support for industrial action among public sector unions in the New Year.

However, Stephen Yeo, a partner at consultancy Watson Wyatt, said such a move could provide people whose pay rises are lower than average with better pensions than they would have received from final salary schemes.

It also emerged last week that Labour is proposing to raise the normal public sector retirement age from 60 to 65, and to increase the age that people can take early retirement from 50 to 55.

In addition, people who continue working until they are 70 will get 45 a week on top of their state pension from April next year.

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