In all this talk of Career Average Pensions an important element has
been missed in all the media reports that women will come out worse when
the pension calculation is done. Hutton has not taken into account the
normal working life of women when making his proposals and the very act
of using Career Average Pensions is sex discriminatory.
In all this talk of Career Average Pensions an important element has been missed in all the media reports that women will come out worse when the pension calculation is done. Hutton has not taken into account the normal working life of women when making his proposals and the very act of using Career Average Pensions is sex discriminatory.
Like most clerical staff in the NHS I started my working life at 18 as a trainee medical secretary on the lowest of all clerical grades, after years of working I gradually moved up the scale only to get married and move away from my home town. Unable to find a job in the NHS immediately I worked for the probation service without any seniority. I started again on the lowest grade. Eventually I was able to get a post in a local hospital, however the time limits set out in the national handbook for maintaining grades had been exceeded, so once again I was given the lowest starting salary possible.
At the age of 27, having progressed through the annual increments again, I took a five year break to look after our son and also to do a degree. Once again when I returned to a job in the NHS, I was again placed on the lowest grade. Now, like a lot of families in the same boat, we had to pack our bags and move when my husband was made redundant and the only employment he could find was in the Midlands. So another break in service occurred and initially the only job I could get in the NHS was through agency work. Therefore, once again, I was outside of the pension scheme.
I am now back in the NHS and I am near the top of the grade scale but now the Government has decided to freeze annual increments as well as freeze our wages. But even if Hutton’s system reflected the real value of previous salaries, which is doubtful, I will only get 63% of the pension I was entitled to prior to Hutton and the sex discrimination is such that under Hutton I will get 16% less than a male who has worked the same number of years on the same terms and conditions yet was able to maintain seniority in the grades.
I am not one of the high flyers that Hutton is portraying up and down the country who have ‘benefited’ from a ‘Gold Plated Pension’ but someone who has stayed in the same job for 32 years. I did not go to work as a secretary for a solicitor or a PA for some private company for more money although I was offered the opportunity, I decided to work in the Health Service because it is rewarding to see that you can make a difference to people’s lives. But part of that choice reflected the knowledge that I was in a pension scheme that would recognise my years of service. I was so convinced in the benefits of the NHS Pension scheme that I committed a further 9% of my salary to purchase additional years in the scheme to cover the periods I was excluded from the scheme, but now I feel I was mislead into wasting a lot of money saving for a future that is not going to happen.
The directors of big business tell us that this is only fair because workers in the private sector do not have final salary pensions, but this has to be rejected as a credible argument. When has big business concerned itself about equality for workers and, more importantly, when profits were rising it was these self same directors who slashed final salary pensions from their own workers.
The rich can squirrel away £150,000 a year tax free for their personal pension pot but for the majority of working women on low pay, the question will be: do you contribute to a pension that discriminates against you or do you use that money now to combat the high levels of inflation and decimate your future?