Me, my job and my pension

AAAAA pen

One of my readers said recently that they thought working in Human Resources would be interesting.  I can’t dispute that. Whilst the role of a HR Advisor can be quite narrow in a large business (lots of staff each having their specific areas of responsibility), where staff numbers are lower the advisor covers all tasks so the job is much more varied. Having worked in an organisation with several thousands of staff , a couple of companies with several hundred, and now one with only 80, I can confidently say that each has its pros and cons.

For one who doesn’t want to work at all (I’d really like to stay at home and write all day), I do actually quite like my job, and whilst I never want to go, I never mind it when I’m there. I’d almost go as far as to say that I like it.  I did say almost!  I have a pleasant  office, recently furnished to my own specification, a fair and accommodating boss, lots of freedom to implement procedures that suit my way of working and that all-important flexibility: for example, my contracted days are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday but in reality I often work  on Thursdays instead of Mondays. Sometimes I do both and I can choose whether to get paid for any additional hours I work,  or I can take time off in lieu. I usually work from 9am-2pm or, but if it suits me better, 12 noon-5pm is fine. I consider myself very lucky.

It was back in the early 1990s that I decided I’d like to move into HR. I’d done several admin type jobs, mostly centred around training, and I’d also worked in estate agency as a sales negotiator for a few years. Back in those days Human Resources was generally still referred to as Personnel. The Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development were (and still are) the professional body for qualifications. After achieving my Diploma in Personnel Management, I worked for a Certificate in Training Practice  and another in Leadership & Management, and following a promotion at work became the lead training co-ordinator for 600 staff. I loved that job but wanted progression and spent the next twelve years alternating between generalist HR and specialist training roles within an international energy company. Then there were three years  spent managing a health & safety audit team and gaining qualifications in H&S and Environmental management.  In the final eighteen months I managed a specialist staff training programme for Wayleaves staff. (Wayleaves, in a nutshell, relates to the legal permissions and rights of way across private land by utility companies to site essential equipment such as sub-stations, overhead line poles or underground cabling and pipework).  When I left I did a couple of short stints in the Aerospace industry and the NHS before my wonderful ‘gap years’ being a full time student.

I’ve been with my current employer (an international logistics company) since August last year and a typical week (if there is such a thing) might involve advising on maternity or paternity rights , monitoring sickness absence and lateness, working out a plan for an employee returning to work after long-term sickness, advising line managers on how to deal with disciplinary issues (and attending informal or formal disciplinary meetings), , preparing contracts of employment or contract variations in line with changing legislation, handling recruitment and the various processes relating to new starters, ensuring that we have followed the legal procedures in terms of ascertaining the individual’s right to work in the UK, delivering induction training, answering queries related to pay, dealing with overtime schedules, ‘counselling’ staff who need to talk (a box of tissues always at the ready) … the list goes on and far too often, my day’s plans are scuppered by the unexpected like an unannounced compliance audit from one of our major customers.

As a career, HR is hugely varied, never boring and very busy. It’s one I’d recommend to anyone who likes the idea of an office based role that changes from day to day.  It has its funny moments – like the girl who recently responded to an advertised vacancy,  telling me that whilst she really wants to work in the beauty industry or train as a hairdresser, she will consider working for us in the meantime! Then there was the applicant for an admin post whose covering letter had 36 (I joke not) spelling or grammatical errors!

I am hoping that my current job will take me up to retirement; four years to go. I no longer want the previous level of responsibility and have no intention of gaining any further qualification. Had the Government not changed the age for state pensions I wouldn’t be working at all. Whilst I really do understand the reasons for extending the working years (though not to the extent that they have been, which I explain below), I am totally supportive on the move to obtain compensation for those who were not informed of these changes. Many found out only when letters were sent out in 2012 to say that we would retire at 65 or 66 and not 60 as expected. Some were given as little as 18 months notice that they would have to work several years longer. Startlingly, the Government’s own state pension website showed incorrect information regarding retirement ages up until 2015.   I shake my head with disbelief that a Government can think it acceptable to not inform individuals about something so fundamentally important. They seem to think that the fact that they placed advertisements in women’s magazines and on the television during the 1990s was sufficient. During that decade I was working full time, running a home, raising a family, volunteering as a school governor, studying for professional qualifications, coping with a mother who progressed from mild cognitive impairment to full blown dementia, and worked my way through a divorce and subsequent home move. Surprise, surprise – I didn’t have a lot of time for reading trivia or watching TV!

The Government’s own Commons Work and Pensions Committee has said that the details sent out about when people will get state pensions and how much they are worth were “inadequate” and “confusing”.The committee’s chairman, Frank Field, said: “Successive governments have bungled the fundamental duty to tell women of these major changes to when they can expect their state pension.

State pension ages are rising in most other countries too, but none have been escalated as rapidly as in the UK. A slightly younger French friend (working in the UK) will be drawing her state pension at 62 because that’s the retirement age in her country.  I wonder whether any studies have been made into the fact that many women at the age of sixty (and it usually is women) are now unable to carry out the traditional roles of helping to care for elderly parents (thus relieving the state of the cost of providing carers) or young grandchildren (which would enable their mothers to be working and contributing to Government coffers by paying taxes and National Insurance), because they still have to work?

And don’t get me started on the so called ‘higher, flat-rate pension for all’. That’s how it was sold to us but the reality is very different. Many of us who paid into company pension schemes will be penalised because our company pensions were ‘contracted out’ so we paid less national Insurance. In my case, the total NI saving over several years was £1,800. For this privilege my state pension forecast shows that it is to be reduced by £100 a month for its entirety. If I live until I am 81 (life expectancy for today’s 60 year old women) I will effectively have lost £18,000 – ten times the amount I saved by paying less NI. Offsetting some of this by the fact that my work pension is slightly higher than it otherwise would have been, still leaves me with a shortfall of  almost £15,000. It’s even more galling to note that someone who has never worked, but has a full NI credit record having been in receipt of state benefits, will receive the full amount of state pension.

To add insult to injury, the state pension age changes were made in response to reports that we are living longer, and yet a number of reports dispute that the picture is quite as presented.  “Buried deep in a note towards the end of a recent bulletin published by the British government’s statistical agency was a startling revelation. On average, people in the UK are now projected to live shorter lives than previously thought.” (Danny Dorling, Oxford University Professor).   Professor Dorling goes on to say that the years of rising life expectancy are over so one wonders what justification there can be for plans to further increase the pension age. We are now in 17th place Europe for life expectancy but despite this, our retirement age is the highest.

I’ll come back with something a little more lighthearted soon.

 

 

 

 

 

12 comments

  1. Coming to this a bit late as we’ve been in the land of very little wi-fi (Wales) . Yes, I do so understand your frustration. It seems to me we all work hard with little reward now. I feel for the working population younger than me. On the plus side my State Pension came in on the precise day of my 60th birthday. But having said that, our finances are a bit dire. My other half doesn’t have a final salary pension and relied on a private pension which didn’t go well. Me I was never going to get old, therefore I took out 12 years of the NHS pension (slight sob) to pay for our first house. That could have been a great financial platform but we made some right daft house moves and got very little out of our last sale. Hence the reason we are in a small flat (love it) and for both of us the State pension is our highest pension. Yes, that’s why I shop in charity shops!!!!! But you know what – we manage and in many ways we have a rich cultural life. Not sure about cruising again though – too expensive! Maybe once in a while as we get older (as in if we reach 80+) but not every year now.

    Very interesting post.

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  2. I didn’t know a lot of that, either, Eloise, I have only ever worked part time and at first only 10 hours a week, and then rising to 20 hours a week. I think I could’ve bought into the government pension scheme at one time, which would’ve entitled me to a pension in my own right, but it was money we could ill afford. My state pension, therefore, is based on my husband’s NI contributions although I have it in my own right. Thank goodness he is in receipt of final-salary pension from his company, perhaps one of the last people to have this, as well as a full state pension. I know nothing about how the current pensions’ scheme works (I’m speaking of the state pension) as it has been a very long time since I worked, and since husband retired.
    Margaret P

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    • Women retiring since 2016 are no longer automatically entitled to use their husbands contributions for a pension. There are a whole lot of ifs, buts and maybes that come into play. This was something else which wasn’t publicised until some women retired and discovered that the rules had changed. A widow can only now get a percentage of her husband SERPS, depending on when he was born. There is a sliding scale which phases it out altogether. The whole state pension revision is a shambolic scandal.

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  3. It’s all very interesting to me to read about your retirement and pension system, since I am planning to retire, soon. There is no mandatory retirement age in the US, but Social Security used to start at age 60, I believe, and then, went up to 62, and now it is 65 but they are urging people to wait until 67! I am not eligible for social security, for various reasons, so what I will have is a pension through my employer and what I’ve saved, myself. My main concern is health care insurance and coverage once I retire – we don’t have the equivalent of your NHS and my health insurance is through my employer.

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    • We have no mandatory retirement age, but until recently women got their state pension at 60. It’s the fact that the changes were so poorly communicated that has enraged them. It must be a very worrying thought that healthcare isn’t available after retirement unless you pay, Bless. The NHS is beset with problems and in financial chaos, but at least we have it and I think we all know that we are lucky to do so.

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  4. I didn’t realise HR was Personnel, I don’t have a company pension as single parent only worked part time in jobs that fitted in with family but manage ok on state pension but as don’t smoke or drink, go on holiday or ever buy anything new it is all ok. I think women with husbands are better off but widows have always been at the bottom of the pile.

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    • You are right, Jane. Widows have never been treated well. My aunt lost her husband when their son was just two years old; it was very hard.
      Your comments add some perspective to the pension situation I’ve written about. I’m grumpy about it but the important thing is, I don’t regret the years I worked part time in order to be there for them as much as I could.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Canada announced a change and then backtracked. My friend who was born 10 months earlier would get a full pension at 65, I was going to have to work until 67!

    It is totally unrealistic to change the goalpost when people are this close to retiring. My generation started working with the expectation of a government pension at 65. If they should be changing it start with those born after 1970, they have more years left to work than us born in the 1950s.

    I’m a nurse and it is hugely unrealistic to expect me to be working on wards at 65! Most nurses retire after 35 years of full time work with a full pension in addition to their government pension. I only finished training at the age of 42. I worked part time whilst my children were young. There is no way I will ever receive a full nursing pension. If I last until 65, I will retire with roughly 15 years of a nurses pension.

    The dog won’t starve.

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    • Similar for me with regard to company pension, Linda. Bringing up a family and years of part time work affected the outcome but I get that and accept it. It’s the state pension that infuriates me – if a private company renaged on their promise of a pension at 60 and then said ‘guess what, we’re not going to honour it,’ it would be termed maladministration. The Government however, get away with it. And at no time, when announcing ‘a flat rate pension for all’ did they tell us that ‘all’ actually meant only about 40% of women!

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  6. That was fascinating – I didn’t know a lot of that. By the way, I should have made contact before just to say I’m a ‘new’ follower – actually it’s been some months now. Best wishes
    Kate M

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    • Hi Kate, thank you for your comment. I’m pleased that you found the post enjoyable. As a regular follower, you will have realised, of course, that I’m generally more lighthearted in my posts but every so often I feel the need for a bit of a rant, usually about something that is unjust. I love to receive comments and always try to acknowledge them, so do hope that you’ll be back again soon.

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