Hundreds of female professors working in UK higher education have joined forces to write to university bosses urging them to drop planned pension cuts, arguing they will have a disproportionate impact on female academics.
More than 800 of the most experienced women working in the sector have signed a letter which has been sent to Universities UK, the umbrella organization representing higher education institutions, expressing their “deep concern” and calling for a last-minute overhaul .
Sweeping changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the UK’s largest private pension scheme, are to be implemented from April 1, despite sparking repeated rounds of industrial action on UK campuses. United by members of the University and College Union (UCU).
The letter points out that women are already affected by the existing pension scheme because of gender pay gaps at all career stages and because the scheme penalizes those who have interrupted their careers due to family responsibilities.
He warns, however, that the structure of the changes, which the UCU says will reduce a typical member’s guaranteed retirement income by 35%, will have “gender-specific impacts” that should be taken into account.
“The specific cuts to the defined benefit portion of the USS scheme – which provides guaranteed income for life – could have a disproportionate impact on women as we typically spend more years in retirement,” the letter says.
“Furthermore, the sheer scale of the cuts would worsen the situation for future generations of female academics, intensifying the untenable trade-offs between early-career flexibility and the risk of financial precariousness in old age.”
The letter argues that the proposed reforms are based on an erroneous valuation of the plan made at market lows in March 2020,” it says.
Pushing for changes without concern for equity would show “a deep disregard for the well-being of women and members of other protected groups, undermining the commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion”, add the letter.
Anne Pollock, professor of global health and social medicine at King’s College London and one of the organizers of the letter, said: ‘It is outrageous that our universities are considering pushing through pension cuts on this scale without even bother to do a full fairness. impact analysis.
“If our universities are to claim they support equity for women and other protected groups, they must ensure that the impact of any cuts does not fall disproportionately on the same groups who are already being treated poorly. by the program.”
A UUK spokesperson insisted that fairness, equality, diversity and inclusiveness had been considered and said employers had carried out equality impact assessments on the changes, as well as the impact of higher costs that would otherwise have been introduced.
“Comments from members and their representative bodies during the recent consultation on the changes show that affordability is a big concern, and particularly for protected groups,” the spokesperson said. “USS will remain one of the most attractive retirement plans in the country.”