An important judgement last week from the Employment Appeal Tribunal, who found that pensions arrangements for judges and firefighters were both discriminatory on grounds of age. (Previously, Tribunals had found that the firefighters deal was legal, but that the judges’ deal was not – these latest judgements covers both groups.)
The basic point is that when the latest pensions schemes for both firefighters and judges were introduced in 2015 they required everyone below a certain age to move on to the new scheme but allowed those above that age to remain on the previous scheme, which was generally more generous; there were also some tapering arrangements for those who narrowly missed the cut off point. The Employment Appeal Tribunal found that this was discriminatory on grounds of age in that it gave older members of the scheme a better deal than younger members.
This is potentially significant, in that it could require fundamental change in the terms of the schemes. It is therefore hardly surprising that the Government are considering what they should now do – a further appeal to the Court of Appeal is certainly possible. So there will be no clear way forward for a while yet.
Of course this might have big implications for the Armed Forces, in that when the Armed Forces 2015 scheme was introduced there was a similar cut off between older and younger personnel (if you were born after 1 April 1967 you had to move to the new scheme; if you were born before 31 March 1967 you remained on the previous scheme.) So the logic of the judgement suggests that these arrangements might also be discriminatory. But this does not mean everyone will be put back on the old schemes: there was widespread agreement across the political spectrum that the public sector pensions in their previous form were unaffordable; and of course there are two ways of achieving equality – it can be achieved by cuts as well as increases.
There is a long long way to go with this but the judgement just might be very significant, although quite how is not yet clear. As ever, the Forces Pension Society is on the case.