How Boris Johnson's election win will affect your pension

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Pension reform is on the table. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA

The Conservatives’ decisive election victory should give the next UK government a better chance of passing new laws to tackle difficult domestic issues.

Many pressing issues have been put on the backburner since Britain voted to leave the EU in 2016. Not only has Brexit dominated much parliamentary debate—which may continue—but also weak or non-existent majorities have made passing any legislation harder.

One issue the Conservatives could move to address is pension reform, which featured little in the campaign but could affect many voters.

“The new government has the political capital to tackle knotty domestic issues such as pensions and social care which would otherwise have been too difficult to even attempt,” said Tom McPhail, head of policy at Hargreaves Lansdown.

Here are some of the things to watch as prime minister Boris Johnson returns to power:

Soaring stocks, soaring pension pots

More than 45 million people in the UK are members of work pension schemes.

Pension funds hold billions of pounds of employee and employer contributions, investing in a range of assets from government bonds to stock markets to increase the size of the pots.

That means many fund managers will be cheering the soaring value of many of their investments on Friday morning after the election. Britain’s FTSE 250 index (^FTMC) has soared more than 4% to record highs, while UK government bond yields reached their highest levels since June.

The pound (GBPUSD=X) meanwhile reached its highest level since mid-2018.

Many investors hope the Conservative landslide will allow Brexit to happen on 31 January, giving greater certainty about Britain’s direction and a lift to the economy, at least in the short term, after years of political limbo.

READ MORE: How the pound’s exchange rate after the election will affect you

Stocks have also soared in sectors where Labour had pledged to nationalise firms such as energy, providing relief for pension funds with investments in or hoping to invest in such companies.

Sajiv Vaid, fixed income portfolio manager at Fidelity International, sounded a note of caution though about how long the rally would last. “Brexit uncertainty is very much here to stay .... Investor attention quickly turns to the next round of negotiations for a further extension by mid-year and a trade agreement by the end of 2020,” he said.

He said 10-year gilts had been pushed higher, but noted prospects for economic growth still looked weak, meaning “the implications for short rates are not clear-cut.”

More protection for your pension

McPhail said the new government would launch new pension reforms with big consequences for voters’ retirement plans.

The government will continue efforts to pass its “oven-ready” pension bill, which should boost protections for occupational scheme members and create a whole new kind of collective defined contribution scheme.

READ MORE: Mail, rail and water stocks turbo-boost UK markets after Tory win

In the wake of high-profile controversies over workers’ pensions pots when major firms have collapsed, the Pensions Regulator will have new powers including £1m fines and prison sentences for management failures.

The watchdog will take “tougher action against those who recklessly risk peoples’ pension benefits,” according to the government.

A pension ‘dashboard’ to see all your pots

The government could promote a long-promised ‘pensions dashboard,’ allowing people to see all their different pots from different schemes in one place.

The watchdog may also receive new powers to “compel pension schemes to provide accurate information to consumers,” helping improve awareness of how their pots are managed.

Pension tax reforms

McPhail said the Conservatives could put tax reform “back on the table.” He said they had already recognised problems with the annual allowance taper and the way it has disincentivised high earners like senior doctors to work extra shifts, pledging a review.

They have also acknowledged a problem with lower earners missing out on tax relief because of the way their employers run their schemes.

“Tinkering will only make the pensions system more dysfunctional than it already is; the best answer would be a fundamental reform of the tax treatment of pensions across the board,” said McPhail.

Continued pension rises under the ‘triple lock’

The Tory manifesto pledged to maintain the so-called ‘triple lock’ introduced after their 2010 victory to satisfy older voters.

It means the state pension rises annually by the largest of either 2.5%, inflation or average income growth.

Bad news for ‘Waspi’ women

Labour had pledged to compensate so-called ‘Waspi’ women, who lost out under previous controversial increases to the female state pension age.

A group called Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) had campaigned hard against the changes, affecting women born in the 1950s.

But Conservative minister Nicky Morgan has said there “isn’t the money available” for such compensation, meaning the chances of it happening seem remote.