Pensions  

Court rejects pensioner's argument

Court rejects pensioner's argument

A pensioner who accused the trustees of the Swansea University Pension & Assurance Scheme of discrimination against his disability has lost his case in the Supreme Court.

In a decision published today (December 17), the Supreme Court sided with the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal against Mr Williams, who had previously received a positive verdict from the Employment Tribunal.

Mr Williams was employed by Swansea University from 12 June 2000 until he retired for ill-health reasons on 30 June 2013 at the age of 38. For the first 10 years he had worked full-time and then, for the final three, he worked between 17.5 and 26 hours per week when he was fit to do so. The reduction in working hours arose from his disabilities.

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Under the ill-health early retirement provisions, he was entitled to a lump sum and annuity, calculated on the basis of his actual salary at relevant times, whether full or part-time. The amount of this part of the pension was not in dispute.

He was also entitled to an enhancement, calculated on the basis of his actual salary at the date of retirement, which was the point being discussed in court.

Mr Williams argued he had been discriminated against by not receiving an ill-health pension based on his full-time salary rather than his part-time salary.

His position was that the reason he was working part-time was to accommodate his disability, and, had he been working full-time at the time of his retirement, his enhanced pension would have been twice the amount of the pension he actually received.

Mr Williams argued discrimination under the definition of section 15 of the 2010 Act.

But in the Supreme Court decision judge Lord Carnwath said there was "nothing intrinsically unfavourable or disadvantageous" about awarding a pension.

He said: "The appellant’s argument depends on an artificial separation between the method of calculation and the award to which it gave rise.

"The only basis on which Mr Williams was entitled to any award at this time was by reason of his disabilities. Had he been able to work full-time, the consequence would have been, not an enhanced entitlement, but no immediate right to a pension at all.

"In those circumstances the award was not in any sense 'unfavourable', nor (applying the approach of the Code) could it reasonably have been so regarded."

maria.espadinha@ft.com