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Women Lose Legal Fight in Court of Appeal to Lower State Pension Age to 60

Women lose legal fight in Court of Appeal to lower State Pension Age to 60

The Court of Appeal has unanimously rejected an appeal by two women against the decision of the High Court in October 2019 that the mechanisms chosen by the government to implement changes which equalised the State Pension Age (SPA) between men and women over the period April 2010 to November 2018 and raised the SPA from 65 to 66, 67 or 68, depending on age, did not amount to unlawful discrimination on the grounds of age or sex under either EU law or the Human Rights Convention (R (on the application of Delve and another) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2020] EWCA Civ 1199).

The Court of Appeal ruled that it was impossible to say that the government's decision to strike the balance where it did between the need to put State Pension provision on a sustainable footing and the recognition of the hardship that could result for those affected by the changes was manifestly without reasonable foundation. Despite the sympathy that the appellate judges, like the members of the High Court, felt for the appellants and other women in their position, the Court of Appeal was satisfied that this was not a case where the court could interfere with the decisions taken through the Parliamentary process.

Lawyers for the appellants, Julie Delve and Karen Glynn, had argued that the economic burden should have been shifted onto younger women who faced less social discrimination in the workplace and were likely to earn more and have better opportunities over the course of their careers. But the Court of Appeal said rising life expectancy and the growing ratio of retirees to workers meant the government had to act urgently.

As regards whether there was any legal obligation on the government to notify people of the change to their pension age, the Court of Appeal held that in any event the High Court was entitled to conclude on the evidence that the publicity campaign implemented by the DWP had been adequate and reasonable. In addition, the application for judicial review had been made substantially out of time and the long delay in bringing the proceedings would have precluded the grant of any remedy even if the grounds of challenge had been made out.