What rules about sex discrimination apply to occupational pension schemes?

There are a few areas of pensions where it is currently still legal to treat men and women differently (mainly related to the fact that women tend to live longer), while women are less likely to meet the qualifying criteria for automatic enrolment because their earnings are likely to be lower, so this is definitely a problem to look out for.

It is legal to discriminate between men and women when deciding how much to reduce a pension because of early retirement (actuarial reduction), but it is no longer legal to offer different annuity rates to men and women.

It is not legal to discriminate in:

  • deciding who can join a scheme;
  • paying benefits in a salary-related scheme (except those built up before 1990 when European law stopped discrimination);
  • paying lump sum death benefit; and
  • setting retirement dates.

Sex discrimination has been made more difficult in recent years, largely thanks to European law and union action. But pensions built up before 1990 may still be treated differently. This is a complicated legal area and you should seek detailed advice if you feel you have been discriminated against through your pension.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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