Who will you be voting for in the election on June 8th? Does your vote depend on a future government’s policies and how they affect women? Here’s SavvyWoman’s manifesto for women
Justice for ‘WASPI’ women affected by the rise in state pension age
Millions of women are seeing their state pension age rise. The state pension age is rising from 60 (which it was until April 2010) to 66 by October 2020.
In most cases, the women affected had little or no warning that they wouldn’t get their state pension at 60. In some cases, they were given out of date information. I’ve always agreed with the principle of increasing the state pension age to 65 for women, but not with the way it’s been done.
I’ve never agreed with the decision to bring forward the rise in state pension age to 66 because it means two concurrent rises in the state pension age for hundreds of thousands of women.
A future government must act. Many thousands of women are either unable to work or unable to find a job. If the government cannot afford to pay women the state pension when they were originally due to receive it, they should offer a meaningful transitional payment. Read about the WASPI protest on March 8th and what other groups are doing.
Awareness of the consequence of the rise in state pension age on those who can least afford it
We know that, on average, we are living longer. But the gap between those living for the longest and those who don’t live so long is widening. Put bluntly, women (and men) who live in the wealthiest areas live the longest. Those who spend their lives in the poorest areas, and/or who work in physically demanding jobs are likely to die earlier.
Whilst the state pension has to be sustainable, the current system is skewed towards those who spend the most time in retirement. Read more in the Cridland Review recommendations to government.
Early access to state pensions
A future government should offer women (and men) the chance to access a reduced state pension early. This has been discounted in the independent review into future rises in the state pension age, but I think it’s an option worth offering.
Changes to the rules so carers aren’t penalised in retirement
There are currently around six million carers in the UK. There are quite a number of those who don’t receive Carer’s Allowance (the means-tested benefit for carers) because they care for a relative for less than 35 hours a week. Currently, carers who care for someone for more than 20 hours a week, but less than 35 hours a week could get Carer’s Credits. This means they earn National Insurance credits towards their state pension while they’re caring.
Approximately 95% of carers who could get these credits miss out on them. I don’t think that’s acceptable and I’d like a future government to do more to ensure that carers don’t miss out. Please sign my petition:
Reduce the fees and extend claim times for employment tribunals
Fees for employment tribunals have risen in recent years. It now costs £250 to bring a discrimination claim and £950 for a hearing. You also have to bring a claim within three months of you ending your work for the company or the alleged discrimination happening.
In cases of sex discrimination, particularly where pregnancy is involved, that penalises women who are likely to have much better things to do if they’re pregnant or have given birth, than to raise stress levels by taking on their employer. Read more in What are your maternity rights at work?
Change the rules on child benefit high income tax charge
At the moment, you have to pay a tax charge on child benefit if one of you earns more than £50,000 a year. This is normally done through a self assessment form. Because of the (perceived?) faff of self assessment forms, many women who are higher earners or whose partner is a higher earner, don’t register for child benefit, rather than pay the tax charge.
By not registering for child benefit, they don’t build up any National Insurance credits while they’re looking after their children, if they don’t work. There should be better information and reminders linked to registering your child’s birth, that if you don’t register for child benefit, you’ll lose out. Read more about the child benefit high income tax charge in my article called Child benefit changes Q and A.
Make more companies produce a gender pay gap report
At the moment companies with 250 employees or more must carry out a gender pay gap report. I think companies with 100 employees or more should do this. Part of the exercise involves publishing the percentage of women and men in the top 25% of earners, second 25% of earners and so on. Senior company managers also have to explain why the gender pay gap exists.
At the moment, too much of the discussion around the gender pay gap is framed in terms of women ‘working in low paid sectors’ (such as hospitality and the caring sector). I believe we should flip this on its head. Part of the reason these sectors are badly paid is because they are female dominated. Read more about gender pay gap reports in Gender pay gap reporting from April 2017.
Reverse bereavement benefit cuts and make them available to cohabiting couples
The government is introducing dramatic cuts to bereavement benefits which will leave many widowed parents worse off.
However, a bigger issue is that couples who live together but who aren’t married aren’t entitled to bereavement benefits when their partner dies. I don’t believe this is right.
Bring down childcare costs and increase workplace flexibility
At the moment, parents pay around £116 a week on average for a childcare place, according to the Family and Childcare Trust. For some parents the costs are much higher.
The current government wants to offer parents 30 hours of free childcare a week in England during term time. However, a number of childcare providers have said this cannot be delivered at the current funding levels.
This is stopping some mothers (and fathers) from returning to work.
Don’t overlook women without children in policy decisions
There are lots of policy areas that still assume women have children. One in five women don’t have children. For example, under rules that were phased in from April 6th, couples who are married or in a civil partnership will be able to leave a property worth up to £1 million to their children or grandchildren. However, married couples or couples in a civil partnership who don’t have children can’t take advantage of this higher inheritance tax threshold.
Social care is also a big area where the assumption is that you will have family (namely adult children) who will be able to help arrange your care.
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