EU gender confusion will create annuity anomaly

Men in workplace pension schemes may still get gender-based annuities despite an EU ruling forcing providers to offer unisex rates from December.

European lawmakers last year outlawed insurance companies from offering a different level of pension to men and women based purely on their sex, with the new rules set to come into force on 21 December. The divergence happens now because, on average, women live longer than men, which means insurers are willing to offer males a higher retirement income than females.

However, the ruling was based on a challenge to the EU's goods and services directive which includes personal pensions but not occupational pensions, where a trustee buys an annuity on behalf of the scheme's members.

John Lawson, head of pensions policy at Standard Life, warned that some insurers could therefore still offer annuities on a gender basis after 21 December.

He said they could target specific sectors traditionally dominated by men, such as construction.

Tom McPhail, head of pensions research at Hargreaves Lansdown, has raised the issue with UK regulators.

"The banning of gender pricing in annuities was already bad news for savers without adding this unnecessary confusion," he said.

"A system which delivers different outcomes depending on whether you happen to be in an occupational scheme or a contract-based scheme doesn't make a lot of sense."

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