§ Shona McIsaac
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what measures have been introduced since 1997 to improve pension rights for part-time workers. 1604W
§ Malcolm Wicks
We have introduced the state second pension (S2P) which reformed the state earnings-related pension scheme (SERPS) in April 2002. Compared to SERPS, S2P gives more help to employees on low or moderate earnings (£4,004 to £25,600 in 2003–04 terms). It also helps certain carers and disabled people whose annual earnings are below £4,004, or have no earnings at all. So it will provide extra income in retirement for some part-time workers.
Since 1997, we have also made it possible for part-timers to make pension contributions at a relatively low cost, and on a flexible basis, with the introduction of stakeholder pensions.
We have also taken steps to improve access to occupational pension schemes for part-time workers. We have implemented the EU Directive 97/81/EC (the Part-time Work Directive) by introducing the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 (SI No. 1551/2000) which came into force on 1 July 2000. Under these regulations part-time workers have the right in principle not to be treated less favourably than full-time workers of the same employer who work under the same type of employment contract.
In addition, as a result of rulings by the courts, part time workers can claim backdated access to occupational pension schemes where their previous exclusion from the relevant scheme amounted to indirect sex discrimination. Claims can be backdated to 1 April 1976 or the start of employment, if later, subject to paying relevant contributions.