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The gender pensions gap: what can employers do?

20th May 2022
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Cecilia Floren is very aware of the need to save more for her pension in order to be financially independent. A single parent, she has two daughters and is supporting her own mother whose pension doesn’t cover her living costs.

Cecilia, 45, lives in Hampshire and has two daughters aged 19 and 14. She has both reduced her hours and taken a 1.5 year career break over the course of her working life  in order to care for her children. For the last three years she has been working in an administrative role in public relations and marketing four days a week and has a second job working at a supermarket to make ends meet. But she hasn’t been able to put any additional money in to make up for the earlier gap in payments. She is worried about the future. She's not the only one. Fifty per cent of women surveyed by workingwise.co.uk said they don't think they will be able to retire at state pension age and 53% believe they won't be financially independent in old age.

The survey highlights the cumulative issues that lead to the gender pensions gap which Prospect union puts at around 37.9%, more than double the gender pay gap, although it is higher as women get older. A large part of the reason is that many women either reduce their pension payments or stop them altogether after having children if they take time out or reduce their hours. 71% of the women questioned in the survey felt that going part-time or taking a career break was the reason that they reduced their pension payments, additionally, 64% of respondents shared that due to a career break, or reduced hours they have previously stopped their pension payments altogether.

The TUC this week also drew attention to the gender pensions gap and called for urgent action to address it. They called for a range of approaches, from investing more in childcare and a statutory requirement for ministers to report on the gender pension gap with an action plan on how to tackle the gap to action on auto-enrolment, such as removing the £10,000 earnings threshold and scrapping the lower earnings limit.

A free e-book on tackling the gender pensions gap produced by workingwise.co.uk looks at what employers can do. There is no one solution because the gender pensions gap is the result of layer upon layer of issues so it requires a panoply of different approaches to tackle it, from returner programmes to flexible career progression to women's leadership initiatives, sponsorship programmes and management training.

All of these initiatives need to be measured and tracked because taking action is not sufficient. Employers need to understand what is effective action. Many employers still don't publish action plans with their gender pay gap reports, but even those who do often just publish generalised statements about diversity and inclusion and/or a list of initiatives with no information or statistics that show what actually works and why.  We need this level of detail in order to make progress.

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