This issue relates only to the UK, so apologies to my overseas readers, but I hope you’ll all cheer me on in my David and Goliath fight against one of Britain’s largest insurance companies.
Very very brief background to what’s been happening:
In 1993 I took out an insurance called a Permanent Health Insurance (PHi) also often called an Income Protection Policy. This is an insurance which pays out a proportion of your wages if you are ever unable to work due to illness. It finishes when you retire, which in 1993 was 60 for women and 65 for men. It’s paid out for the duration of my illness and without it I would have lost my home. Fast forward to 2010 when the Government changed the retirement age for women from 60 to 65 so that the sexes both retire at the same age. Great, it’s about time we were equal. However, my PHi still ends at 60 leaving me 5 years with no money until I receive my pension.
Since the introduction of the Equality Act 2010 it is now illegal to treat the sexes differently so I thought I’d be able to have my policy term increased in line with men’s. Think again. The Equality Act has a clause which excludes existing insurance policies, so even though everyone agrees my insurance is discriminatory I could do nothing about it. Just because I was born with a vagina and not a penis I am to receive 5 years less money than men. It’s the goddamn 21st century not the 1800s – how can this be allowed to happen?! I have used my fury at the injustice of the situation to try and fight it.
Over the last 7 years I have contacted everyone I can think of about the issue. This includes my MP, the Pension’s Minister, the Shadow Pension’s Minister, solicitors, WASPI (women against state pension inequality), the Barrister working for WASPI, HM Treasury, The Financial Conduct Authority, the Countess of Marr, the ME Association, journalists, The Women’s Equality Commission, Liberty, Justice, The Equality Advisory Commission and the Financial Ombudsman’s Service. Most people, including WASPI and the Women’s Equality Commission, didn’t even reply to my correspondance and those that were sympathetic could do nothing because the discrimination is lawful.
However, I did discover that if my policy was renewed, or the terms of the policy reviewed, the exclusion clause in the Equality Act no longer applies.
In 2016 my insurance company wrote to me and said that they had been overpaying me and reduced my benefit entitlement by a third. The way in which my benefit is calculated is a fundamental term and condition of my policy. I of course challenged this and asked them to look again at their figures. They did so and said no error had occurred and stuck to their guns. So I referred the situation to the Financial Ombudsman’s Service, who thankfully agreed with me that this change to my policy was unfair and directed the insurers to pay me according to the original terms of my plan. At the time the stress of this was horrendous but it might have turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen, because I am calling this change to my policy term a “review” and being as though this review took place after 2010 it means the exclusion clause in the Equality Act no longer applies and I can now challenge my insurers to increase the term of my plan to the age of 65 so that it is in line with men’s.
Of course my insurers say that no review took place and that it was just “an error” in calculating my entitlement. Only of course I asked them to formally look at the situation (aka to review it) and they wrote and said to me that no error had taken place. So to now call it an error is ludicrous.
I have now referred the situation to the Financial Ombudsman’s Service and it will take some time for them to make their decision, which hinges on whether a review of my terms & conditions took place or not. Wish me luck!
This issue is so much bigger than some insurance company paying little old me what I’m due. It’s about equality and still treating women differently to men. If we retire at the same age, which we should, we should get the same insurance benefits. End of story. That no-one in authority is the slightest bit bothered that the change to the state pension age has discriminated against hundreds if not thousands of women claiming on PHi/income protection policies literally makes my blood boil. We seem to be seen as collateral damage, a necessary casuality in a much bigger war. Only I’m no victim and I refuse to lie down and die like a good little girl. The fight goes on.