Women’s State Pension age: our findings on the Department for Work and Pensions’ communication of changes

Background relating to changes in State Pension age for women

23. Before 1940, men and women’s State Pension age was 65. In 1940, women’s State Pension age was lowered to 60.

24. In 1991, the Government announced its intention to equalise State Pension age. In December 1991 it published a consultation document, ‘Options for Equality in State Pension Age’, which described the policy rationale for the change, options for taking the policy forward and the financial effects of the change. The Government received over 4,000 responses to the consultation.

25. The 1993 White Paper ‘Equality in State Pension Age’ set out the Government’s intention to equalise men and women’s State Pension age at 65. It highlights four drivers for the change:

  • women were increasingly playing an equal role to men in the economy. The change would enhance the future pension entitlement of many women
  • people were living longer and healthier lives. A common pension age of 65 would strike a fair balance between generations
  • to help Britain maintain its international competitiveness
  • a State Pension age of 65 matched the trend in occupational pension schemes.

26. The change was to be phased in over a 10-year period between 2010 and 2020. The long lead-in period was to allow people sufficient time to plan ahead.

27. The White Paper stated:

‘In developing its proposals for implementing the change the Government has paid particular attention to the need to give people enough time to plan ahead and to phase the change in gradually.’


‘The change will not begin to be implemented until 2010. The lead-in period of over 16 years allows plenty of time for people to adjust their plans.’

28. The only reference to how the change would be communicated was in an appendix to the White Paper. Appendix 2 stated: ‘Most attendant publicity will be issued through the Government … Written notification of the change will be made by many employers’.

29. The ensuing Pensions Act 1995 provided that:

  • men’s State Pension age would remain 65
  • women born before 6 April 1950 would retain a State Pension age of 60
  • women born after 5 April 1955 would have a State Pension age of 65
  • women born between 6 April 1950 and 5 April 1955 would have a State Pension age of between 60 and 65, depending on their birthday. Schedule 4 of the Act set out the State Pension age for women born between these dates.

30. The 1995 Pensions Act made no provision for how the changes to women’s State Pension age would be communicated.

31. Further changes to State Pension age followed.

32. Under the Pensions Act 2007, the State Pension age for men and women was to increase to: 66 between 2024 and 2026, 67 by 2036, and 68 by 2046.

33. The Pensions Act 2011 sped up the timetable for raising men and women’s State Pension age. Under the 2011 Act, the increase in women’s State Pension age was accelerated so that it reached 65 by November 2018, instead of April 2020. The White Paper preceding the 2011 Act explained the drivers for the acceleration, including increasing life expectancy and the need for the State Pension to be affordable.

34. Originally, it was planned to increase State Pension age to 66 by April 2020. During the passage of the Bill, the timetable was adjusted so this would happen in October 2020 instead. The revised timetable capped the further increase consequent to the 2011 Act at 18 months (relative to the timetable set out in the 1995 Act), at a cost to the Exchequer of £1.1 billion. Women’s State Pension age would still reach 65 by November 2018, but the increase from 65 to 66 would happen more slowly.

35. The impact assessment for the 2011 Act (published in November 2011, when the legislation came into effect), set out how the Government intended to communicate changes to State Pension age, including:

  • ensuring that information about the changes was available on its website and in its leaflets and guides, and
  • writing individually to 800,000 individuals born between 6 April 1953 and 5 April 1955 (those affected in the transitional period prior to State Pension age reaching 66, plus those who would have been affected in the transition to 65 under the original timetable).

36. The impact assessment also stated that the Government was considering how to communicate the changes to people born in subsequent years.

37. According to a Work and Pensions Committee Report (2016), 1.1 million women were affected by equalisation of women’s State Pension age under the 1995 Act alone. A further 2.7 million women have had their State Pension age increased by both the 1995 and 2011 Acts.

38. For some women, the combined effect of the 1995 Act and 2011 Act meant an increase in State Pension age of up to six years