Changes to UK pension scheme

Reader N writes:

USS proposes to move new entrants to the profession from a final salary scheme to a career average (CARE) scheme. Even the Unions says that CARE per se is not a problem. However, CARE is almost certain to disproportionately dis-benefit women employees.

Many women have children in their twenties and thirties, with associated periods of maternity leave, which slows their promotions and hence their salary increases. They might hope to catch up with their male counter-parts by the end of their career (optimistic, I grant, but nevertheless possible), but it is fairly certain that even a woman/ mother who catches up will have a lower career average salary than a man/ father. Hence the move to the CARE scheme is likely to disadvantage women compared to men.

This raises several questions: Has anyone modelled/ investigated/ quantified the differential effects of CARE on men and women? Why are female academics not more outraged about the move to CARE? And is it even legal for the employer to implement a scheme that will systematically disadvantage women compared to their male counterparts?

Seems like a damn good point.

2 thoughts on “Changes to UK pension scheme

  1. It’s true that a woman in the position described will have a lower career-average salary than a man. But the gap may be even greater with final-salary schemes. The people who benefit most from final-salary schemes are people who get steadily promoted towards the end of their careers: plenty of men don’t get that, and even more women don’t (as demonstrated by the lack of women in senior university administrative roles and in professorships).

    I do see the point that women’s promotions may be delayed by time out of the workforce, so for some women their promotions may indeed come late in their careers compared with men who get promoted. But I would think a greater proportion of women never get promoted at all. And if you spend most of your working life in roles around the same grade, being in a final-salary scheme won’t be much better than a CARE scheme. I think it’s correct to say that final salary schemes magnify the difference between people at the bottom and top of the pay scales, because most people start near the bottom, but not everyone makes it to the top.

    My understanding is that the real issue with USS’s plans is the multiplier, NOT the fact that it replaces a final-salary scheme with a CARE scheme.

    Oh, and universities have had to do equality impact assessments on the proposed changes to USS, and if they haven’t published them (many won’t have) they should be available in response to a freedom of information request. A competent equality impact assessment will include the modelling described in the post. (If modelling shows a systematic disadvantage for women, it could still be lawful to introduce the scheme, but only if it is ‘objectively justified’ – that is, if the scheme is an appropriate and necessary means to a legitimate end.)

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