Over two hundred judges at various levels of the judicial structure have brought age discrimination claims regarding the reform of the Judicial Pension Scheme, a close parallel to the claims brought on behalf of younger firefighters who were transferred into the 2015 Firefighters’ Pension Scheme. The Employment Tribunal judgement in the judges’ cases was published this morning (Monday, 16 January) a comprehensive win for the claimant judges.
As in our cases, the government conceded that the transitional arrangements, made when the 2015 Scheme was introduced, discriminate on the grounds of age. It maintained, however, that it was pursuing a legitimate aim, which meant that the discrimination was lawful.
The Employment Tribunal strongly disagreed. It said that the legitimate aim which the government claimed – the need to protect those who are closest to retirement – is just another way of saying that it is legitimate to discriminate on the grounds of age. Saying someone is closer to retirement is just a different way of saying that they are older.
The Tribunal went on to say that even if that was a legitimate aim, the means the government used to pursue it was disproportionate. It should have balanced the government’s desire to reform pensions, in a consistent way across the public sector, against the effects of the changes on the younger judges. There was little evidence to show that it had examined those effects, and no evidence that the balancing exercise had been conducted and came out in favour of changing the Judicial Pension Scheme.
The means the government used to pursue the claim was disproportionate.
Our cases are also being heard at the Employment Tribunal this week. The government’s claimed legitimate aim is identical in our cases. The effects of pension reform for judges are different because the details of their pension scheme is different, but the need for a balancing exercise is the same and the evidence that has come out shows the government made little effort to analyse the catastrophic effects of the changes for firefighters, concentrating only on the financial savings to the government.
The government is likely to appeal the judges’ decision. Our cases are slightly different. We have not reached the final conclusion yet, but we are very confident that the firefighters’ cases will succeed for essentially the same reasons that the Tribunal gave this morning.