Pensions are a human right

Pensions are a human right that TESCO is happy to drop.

This week, TESCO has announced plans to close its pension scheme. The company said the scheme will be revalued in May and that it would consult on the planned changes in June, before implementing the changes in February, 2016. Not many people think of it that way, but pensions are a human right. How did we get that idea? No other than the UN Declaration of Human Rights Article 25.

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

The UK government has not been doing very well ensuring this right is available to women. Not only are pension schemes and offers largely dictated by employers, they are also discriminatory towards people who have not been in employment for large periods of time, or people who have been in part time employment throughout their lives.

In most cases, these would be women who have attempted to juggle work and caring responsibilities (for their children, elderly parents or various relations) during their working years. As pensions offers stand at the moment, women will have little to benefit. Without a partner who can bring in additional income, old age for women can be a time of deprivation and limitation.

The fact that TESCO is ditching its pension scheme in order to increase its profits will have a significant impact on the 203,000 members of staff, most of them women on part time and term time flexible contracts. The general excuse behind the move is that nobody else does it, so why should we? “The pension scheme, as is, is almost unheard of these days. It seems anomalous that they offer it when others don’t,” said Nick Kirrage, fund manager at Tesco’s eighth-biggest investor, Schroders.

But if we start applying this logic to everything, what will happen to our general financial security and well-being? The well-fare of women who are already under a lot of stress and supporting this country in raising our future generations? Companies like TESCO grow their profits based on the hard work of hundreds of thousands of women. They should not be allowed to ditch these women once they reach pension age. What are your thoughts on women’s access to pensions? We’d love to hear your views.

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