Pensions  

Hundreds of teachers take legal action against government

Hundreds of teachers take legal action against government

More than 300 teachers are issuing claims to the employment tribunal relating to discriminatory changes made to their pensions in 2015.

The group claim relates to changes that were made by the government to teachers’ pensions in 2015, when the majority of teachers were moved from defined benefit schemes to career average schemes.

Those teachers who were within 10 years of retirement were protected from the changes and remained in the final salary scheme, while younger teachers were not offered the same protection and transferred to another scheme.

In a case relating to judges' and firefighters' pensions, it was ruled that making pension changes in this way constituted unlawful age discrimination.

The government confirmed that the ruling would apply to all public sector schemes, with an initial estimate that remedying the discrimination will add about £4bn a year in liabilities across the board.

But the teachers argued there was no commitment to do this and “the only way to ensure that the discrimination is remedied is to bring legal proceedings”.

Nigel Mackay, partner at law firm Leigh Day which represents judges, police officers, teachers and doctors in pension discrimination cases, said: "Despite eventually accepting defeat in relation to our clients who are judges and police officers, the government has made no promise to remedy the discriminatory changes it made to other public sector pensions schemes, which have had a substantial financial impact on hard working people, including teachers and doctors. 

"We have started issuing claims on behalf of the growing group of teachers that we represent and we believe thousands more could bring a legal claim. 

"We are determined to pursue these claims on behalf of our clients to ensure that the government remedies the discriminatory changes it made to our clients’ pension schemes. Without bringing claims, there is no guarantee that teachers will receive any remedy."

In December 2018 the Court of Appeal ruled the Ministry of Justice had discriminated against judges on the grounds of age, race and equal pay and in June 2019 the Supreme Court rejected the government’s application to appeal the ruling.

In August 2019 the government conceded defeat in relation to police pensions, acknowledging that moving police officers to new police pension schemes, based on their age, was discriminatory.

Last month, an employment tribunal ruled more than 6,000 firefighters were entitled to return to more generous pre-2015 public sector schemes.

The claimants, members of the 1992 and 2006 firefighters’ pension schemes, are now entitled to be treated as if they had remained members of their original pension fund, with benefits including a retirement age of between 50 and 55.

It is likely that a first hearing will be scheduled in spring 2020 to deal with the teachers’ claims.

amy.austin@ft.com

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