Jackie Leiper
Managing Director Workplace Savings & Distribution
08 March 2021
5 min read

Pensions expert Jackie shares her views on supporting 20,000 employers with their workplace pensions, and closing the pension gender gap.

Headshot of Naomi, who is helping to drive sustainable change within Lloyds Banking Group


You’re a vocal campaigner around the pensions gender gap – why this is such an issue?

“The good news is more women than ever are putting money aside for their retirement but because of the gender pay gap, the fact women are more likely to work part-time, in lower paid industries, and take more time out for having a family, a woman will need to work an extra 37 years to allow her to have a pension pot the same size as her male counterpart.

Another way to look at this is that a man retiring at 65 today on average has £130k in his pension pot and woman of same age on average will have £30k! At Scottish Widows we are really passionate about addressing this issue and report on this every year in our Women and Retirement Report to update the trends, and also aids when we lobby Government for policy change. For more information on the issue have a look at the report here.”

Should we be focusing on fixing the gender pay gap before we tackle the pensions one?

“In short, no. Both things need to be addressed and gender pay is not the only issue driving the gender pensions gap. To examine this further, we can see there is still a sizeable pay gap with median income in 2019 at £30.4k for a man and £19.6k for a woman. What we can start to see are some broader systemic challenges in the way childcare and domestic responsibilities are divided, where women are more likely to have a much more fragmented career with time out of the workplace for maternity and caring responsibilities. After having a child, nearly two thirds of women who return to work do so on reduced hours.

We are beginning to see more ‘modern family’ sets ups but the nuclear family is very much the status quo, where mum fulfils the caring role and dad is the primary breadwinner. Even where both parents are working full-time, a disproportionate amount of the child care responsibilities and funding the childcare often fall to the woman, not to mention housework!

There is still a long way to go to shift from these societal norms and we won’t change them over night, but progress is possible. For example, ensuring women have equal career opportunities from the moment they finish education, improving flexibility in work by providing better maternity and paternity support, and making child care more affordable, will all help to close the earnings gap. When it comes to the pensions gap, relatively simple things such as removing the minimum earning threshold to qualify for automatic enrolment into your workplace pension would make a big difference. As would lowering the minimum age from 22 to 18.”


A woman would need to work   

an extra 37 years 

to allow her to have a pension pot the same size as a her male counterparts.


Has lockdown made the pensions gap worse?

“Yes, absolutely. Lockdown and the impact of the pandemic has set women and Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority groups back, in some ways undoing years of progress made towards equality. Women are more likely to work in sectors hardest hit by coronavirus, for example care work, retail and hospitality, often putting them at greater risk of redundancy.

In many cases it’s women that are bearing the brunt of home-schooling, having to reduce their working hours or stop work altogether in order to look after and educate the kids whilst dad’s work takes priority. Breaks in employment not only mean a halt to pensions savings, it also means gaps in National Insurance contributions which can impact eligibility for the state pension.”

Are we heading towards a pensions crisis for women?

“If we don’t continue to lobby for change and continue to raise awareness of the gender pensions gap, then yes we are heading for a crisis.  Alarmingly just 46% of women in their 20s are saving the recommended minimum of 12% of their monthly pay, compared to 56% of men of the same age. We need to support women to become more confident when it comes to their all their finances, not just pensions.  

Lloyds Banking Group and Scottish Widows are very active in this space, with The M Word campaign and the Changing Futures campaign to help educate and support our customers.  As part of International Women's Day we are offering a series of virtual events to colleagues, i.e. members of our Breakthrough and Family Matters networks, where we’ll help colleagues better understand their own pension, their approach to savings, and even how to get their children involved in the conversation on money."

Has the Group (and Scottish Widows) been encouraging women to keep saving into their pensions during the pandemic?

"We’ve been encouraging everyone that can afford it to continue to pay into their pension during the pandemic. We’ve created a dedicated hub covering many of the issues that impact women to provide guidance and support – you can learn more about that here.

For employers we’ve supported on the impact of the COVID-19 job retention scheme, created a dedicated redundancy hub as well as providing some materials through our ‘Expert series’ which covered the impact of the pandemic on people’s pensions."

The pandemic has shown that people can work remotely and flexibly – do you think that this new way of working will help close the gender gap that we see in senior roles in the finance industry?

“I think it will go some way to help as women will feel better equipped to juggle work and home commitments, and I have heard loads of stories where families are sharing the load much more evenly, which has been easier to do when nobody has a long commute. The fact we’ve proven that most roles can now be carried out remotely without extensive travel will make senior roles more appealing for many woman. It’s not just about working flexibly though, we need to continue to support, nurture, and attract female talent.

Simple things like changing the way job adverts are worded can result in a much more diverse candidate list. Having inspiring role models at all levels and in all job types also removes the stereotypes and I hope inspires many women to put themselves forward for opportunities.”

Do you take advantage of the agile working policies that the Group has in place?

“I love being able to buy an extra 5 days holiday a year via Flex to allow me to spend more time with my family. My husband is retired and we like to spend a lot of our time over in Spain where the sunshine is guaranteed, unlike rainy Scotland.

Prior to the pandemic I’d spend most of the working week either in London or Edinburgh offices, and sometimes had Friday as a work from home day. I’m really proud of all the agile working options we have at the Group and advocate this in my own team. Making use of these policies provides the flexibility that can allow for better career options for all colleagues.

As leaders in Lloyds Banking Group it’s our responsibility to support colleagues in trying out flexible work patterns, ensuring we get the balance right between the business demands and the colleague’s personal needs."
 

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