Pensions warning for single parents

Auto enrolment criteria mean single parents, often working part time, could face poverty in old age.

jar filled with coins titled 'retirement'


A third of all working single mothers are ineligible for a workplace pension under current auto enrolment rules despite over half (59%) being employed, according to new analysis for Single Parents’ Week.

Research by NOW: Pensions and the PPI shows working single mothers have missed out on over £852m in pension savings since the introduction of auto enrolment in 2012.  It calculates that there are currently over 1.59 million single mothers in the UK, but that only a fraction are saving into a workplace pension.  Moreover, of those single mothers who are eligible for workplace pensions, the research suggests they will be saving an average of £885 per year into their pension, compared to the UK average of £1,573.

This is because of the high number of single mums who work part time – around 54% compared to the UK average of 21%. This means that they might not meet the eligibility criteria as pension saving is only triggered once earning £10,000 in a single role.

The research also calculates that single mothers may have to work an additional 28 years (until age 93) to retire with the same amount of money as an average man, whereas single fathers may only need to work an additional three years to age 68.

The data reveals that over a 40-year career, (assuming no career breaks), single mothers will reach retirement with a private pension income total of £48,000. Yet, the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association’s retirement living standards suggest an income of £12,800 per year is needed for a ‘minimum lifestyle’.

Victoria Benson, Chief Executive of Gingerbread, the charity that supports single parents, said: “We already know that too many single parents are locked out of quality work and it’s devastating to see they are also likely to be locked into pension poverty. More needs to be done to better support single parents throughout their working lives and beyond. It’s not right that such a large section of our society will continue to experience hardship well into retirement simply because they parent alone.”

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has backed MP Jonathan Gullis’ Private Member’s Bill on plans to expand auto-enrolment. The Bill, seeks two extensions to auto enrolment, abolishing the lower earnings limit for contributions and reducing the age for being automatically enrolled to 18.  Experts say that if single mothers could pay into their pension on the very first £1 of earnings, they would increase their annual pension contributions to £1,385 (+56%) which means over a 40-year career they could have a pension pot of £75,125.

Samantha Gould, Head of Campaigns at NOW: Pensions, says: “As a working single mother myself, I know all too well that the cost of childcare is a huge obstacle for single-parent households. Working single parents must juggle work and caring responsibilities meaning that they are more likely to reduce their working hours or stop working altogether”.

“Through no fault of their own, too many single mothers are locked out of the auto enrolment system, unable to earn enough to put money aside for later so find themselves on the wrong side of a growing pension savings gap. We must ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to save for their futures and build an adequate savings pot for later in life.”

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