Supreme Court refuses government’s appeal in judges’ pensions discrimination case


The Supreme Court yesterday (Thursday 27 June 2019) refused permission for the government to appeal in the ongoing age discrimination case regarding judges’ pensions.

In January 2017, the London Central Employment Tribunal ruled that the Ministry of Justice and Lord Chancellor had discriminated against judges with regards to changes to the judicial pension scheme.

Following the closure of the judicial pension scheme in March 2015, serving judges were transferred to a new judicial pension scheme, however, older judges who were full protection members or tapered protection members, were able to stay in the original scheme until their retirement or the end of their tapered protection period.

The claimants argued that this arrangement constituted age discrimination because younger judges were treated less favourably because of their age. The respondents, on the other hand, contended that the changes to the judicial pension scheme fulfilled the legitimate aim of protecting those who were closest to retirement from the financial effects of the pension changes.

The tribunal found that the changes to the pension scheme were discriminatory on the grounds of age, and that the reasons for doing so were not justified by a legitimate aim.

The London Central Employment Tribunal also upheld the claims that the changes to the pension scheme were indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of race and sex because these had a disproportionate impact on female judges and judges of black, Asian, and minority ethnic (Bame) origin, who had been more recently appointed.

The government appealed this ruling, yet the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the employment tribunal’s decision in January 2018, as did the Court of Appeal in December 2018. The government sought permission to appeal again, but this has been refused by the Supreme Court; it found that the government failed to raise an arguable point of law.

The Supreme Court decision will also apply for a similar pensions case regarding firefighters; law firm Leigh Day, which acts for around 250 judges, predicts the ruling will have further implications on other public sector employees too, such as police officers, teachers, prison officers and National Health Service (NHS) staff.

Shubha Banerjee, associate solicitor at Leigh Day, said: “We are extremely pleased that the Supreme Court has refused the government’s application for permission to appeal, thereby determining once and for all that the three previous rulings in favour of our clients by the Employment Tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal and Court of Appeal will stand.

“The government’s decision to force younger judges to leave the judicial pension scheme has been ruled to be unlawfully discriminatory and the government has no further avenues for appeal. We look forward to these wrongs now being corrected.

“Judges and other public sector [staff] provide invaluable public services to this country and the government should make sure they are compensated fairly and lawfully for this service, including through their hard-earned pensions.”