The Living Wage Foundation

Living pensions






February 2021 – August 2022

Grant Awarded



Project summary

Developing an employer-facing ‘Living Pension’ programme to increase the retirement savings of those in lower paid roles.


Pensioner poverty had been in decline but has seen a resurgence in recent years. Today there are 1 in 6 pensioners in poverty.

In 2012, the government introduced auto-enrolment ,a major policy change to ensure more people build up employer pension pots via minimum contributions (currently at 5% for employee and 3% for employers) Auto-enrolment has been hugely successful.

However, the new system remains much less generous than defined benefit pensions. Communication challenges also mean auto-enrolment minimum contribution levels are seen as enough to provide a decent pension on retirement. This, coupled with a general lack of understanding about saving for retirement, means that today’s savers may not have enough to meet the cost of living in their later life, increasing pensioner poverty in the future.

Work has been done to remedy the knowledge gap among savers, but improving the supply of information to savers can only go so far. There is a crucial need to increase savings levels, and to support and encourage employers who want to do more.

Project overview

It will work with low paid workers, pensioners, trade unions, and campaigners on the new standard, including the potential immediate and long-term impact for those in low pay and how feasible it would be to implement and to build support. It will also work with employers about what they are already doing, how feasible it would be to implement for their lowest paid staff (including contracted out workers), and whether there is appetite for a Living Pension standard.

Finally, it will test and develop the right support process and recognition model and equip its team to support employers adopting a Living Pension standard. It will pilot the standard amongst a number of employers.

The work will also include research on the scale and impact of pensioner poverty, polling amongst low-paid workers on their pensions, and an assessment of how many people are not on track to reach the Living Pension standard.