Redundancy in older women workers

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We were shocked at the stark news published by the Office for National Statistics this week. Buried deep in the figures was the evidence that we have feared. A huge increase in unemployment in women over 65, on top of them having been made to wait up to an extra six years for their State Pension, without proper notice.

WASPI is well aware of the difficulties faced by women, born in the 1950s, returning to the workforce after redundancy or time out to care for elderly relatives or sick partners. Studies and research dating back to 2014 highlight the very necessary developments that needed to be made to avoid high numbers of workers unable to find suitable work as they approach retirement. The reasons for difficulties finding work in later life are well documented but include being “over qualified”, lacking in IT skills, poor health and fitness and age discrimination.

For WASPI women it is particularly difficult because on top of redundancy or trying to find work having been out of the job market for a while, they have to face up to six-year wait for their State Pension that they weren’t aware of, so couldn’t plan for. This means that women have been forced to use their savings or rely on husbands or partners, or if eligible claim benefits.

COVID 19 has made a bad situation worse. Women in the ‘at risk’ age category are required to keep on working, often in front line roles of nursing, care and retail. It seems the Government wants it all.

WASPI women regularly raise the issue of retiring now, and leaving their jobs open to unemployed young people. The Pension’s Minister Guy Opperman wrote “There is a common misconception that having some older people leave the labour market might make room for others to take their jobs. In fact, the opposite is true. Having a larger number of older people in work stimulates the economy, which in turn means more job opportunities for everyone, including young people”

In reply to a written question in Parliament in 2020 Guy Opperman also said. “We have invested in a significant new programme, the Plan for Jobs, to help people of all ages who may be made redundant find work and acquire the skills they need to return to work. Our Fuller Working Lives strategy and the Business Champion for Older Workers and Employers will continue to encourage businesses to recognise the value and skills of employing older workers. Jobcentre Plus Older Claimant Champions provide additional tailored support to help people return to work. We have never spent more as a country on welfare support than we do now.”

The evidence strongly suggests that these initiatives were once again too little, too late for WASPI women caught in the trap of no notice of changes to their State Pension entitlement, and now, no jobs!

WASPI would welcome the opportunity to discuss the reality with the Minister. We call on the Government to take into urgent consideration the catastrophic effect that not informing women adequately has had on their opportunities for a safe and secure retirement. Compensation for these women is urgent and necessary.