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State pension and WASPI

State pension and women against state pension increase

Prior to 1995, women were able to receive their state pension earlier than men. The Pensions Act 1995 provided for the state pension age (SPA) for women to equalise with the SPA for men over the period April 2010 to 2020. However, legislation passed in 2011 accelerated the timetable for equalisation.

Many women affected by this quicker timetable have been campaigning against:

  • the accelerated timetable itself, and
  • the way the change was communicated, which meant that all those affected didn't fully understand that their state pension age was rising and that they would not receive their state pension until later. 

The Pensions Act 1995 provided for the SPA for women to increase from 60 to 65 over the period April 2010 to 2020. In 2007 the Labour government announced that the equalised state pension for both men and women would rise to 66 between 2024 and 2026. 

A timetable was set in place to deliver this change. However, in 2011 the UK government legislated to accelerate the latter part of this timetable, so that women’s SPA would reach 65 in November 2018, over two years earlier than originally planned. The reason the government gave for this change was that life expectancy had risen faster than expected since the timetable had last been revised.

A key complaint has been from women who are older than the previous SPA and who find themselves unemployed or undertaking caring responsibilities and have no access to an income (paid employment, occupational pension or other financial support) until they reach their new and later SPA.  

The campaign, Women Against State Pension Inequality's (WASPI’s) stated aim is to 'achieve fair transitional state pension arrangements for all women born in the 1950s affected by the changes to state pension law in the 1995 and 2011 acts of parliament'. They state that this can be achieved by the government creating a non means-tested 'bridging' pension to provide an income until SPA and providing “compensation for losses for those women who have already reached their SPA”. 

The RCN understands why many women are upset about these changes and is supportive of WASPI’s campaign. There is a general view that people need at least 10 years notice of a rise in their SPA in order to plan fully for their retirement. The Work and Pensions Select Committee and an All Party Parliamentary Group on State Pension Inequality for Women have made various criticisms of the way in which equalisation has been communicated and implemented in recent years. However, it appears clear that the government will not alter the schedule of changes.

If you are affected by these changes and wish to take the matter further you should consider contacting your local MP. It is for the UK government to legislate for any changes to the current timetable on state pension age – there is no other mechanism.

Your MP will want to know how you have been affected by the changes; whether the changes were communicated to you and if so how, what has been the impact on you and your financial position.

You can find out how to contact your MP on the UK parliament website.

Many RCN members who have paid into the NHS pension scheme, and who meet the relevant pension age criteria, have been able to claim their NHS pension from age 55 if employed in a ‘special class nurse’ capacity or at age 60. It is likely that many eligible members have claimed their NHS pension before their state pension age and have offset any delay in receiving their state pension that way. However, special class status is no longer available to those who joined the scheme after March 1995.

Please see our guide on NHS pensions for more information.

To find out what your state pension age is you can answer a few easy questions on the UK government website.

Further information on the state retirement pension can also be found on the UK government website.

The first Independent Review of SPA reported to the UK government in spring 2017. The RCN gave evidence to this review and stated that it did not see that a case could be made for any further rise in SPA. However, in July 2017, the UK government announced that the State Pension age will increase to 68 between 2037 and 2039, earlier than the current legislation which sees a rise between 2044 and 2046. The change will affect everyone born between 6 April 1970 and 5 April 1978.

Visit the state pension age review for further information. The state pension age will be reviewed once in every parliament. 

If you need a pension forecast or have any questions about your pension, please contact your pension provider in the first instance. If there is a dispute with your employer or pension provider, please contact us

Financial advice

Pensions and planning for retirement are both areas that require specialist advice. If you are considering alternative pension arrangements or additional pensions, then you may benefit from talking to a professional financial adviser. As a member of the RCN you are entitled to a complimentary, no obligation initial financial review from Quilter Financial Advisers.

Quilter can provide advice to overseas RCN members provided they are paying UK income tax. Please have your UK National Insurance and RCN membership number ready. 

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Page last updated - 26/03/2024