Tribunal finds Police Federation of England and Wales discriminated in pension claims

Police Federation England WalesThe Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has been found to have discriminated against and victimised members who previously made claims against the government after being moved to pension schemes with reduced benefits.

The Career Average Revalued Earnings Police Pension Scheme came into effect in April 2015, allowing members born before 1 April 1967 to stay in the existing scheme while those born after had to transfer to a new financially inferior one. Later that year, a legal claim was launched against the Home Office and Police Chiefs and Commissioners arguing that it was discriminatory on the grounds of age, with the government conceding defeat in August 2019.

In May 2020, PFEW launched its own action against the government on the same basis. Approximately 10,000 police officers claimed that PFEW discriminated against or victimised them by pursuing, promoting and protecting a policy which favoured the government’s discriminatory transitional arrangements, continually refusing to support or fund the original claims, and taking active steps to deter, obstruct and penalise claimants from pursuing the original claims.

The employment tribunal found that PFEW understood from the outset that that there was a possibility of age discrimination, its messaging was “unfailingly supportive” of the transitional provisions, it did not provide its members with an understanding of likely outcomes, and there was no evidence that the equalities sub-committee examined issues relating to pensions.

It also found that there was no consultation of the membership, little evidence that the bodies charged with deciding and reviewing policy were consulted in a meaningful way, and consideration was not given as to whether there was any less discriminatory way of redesigning the scheme.

Employment judge Massarella said: “In our view the potential for age discrimination was so obvious that it cried out for a cogent explanation of what the justification for it might be. At no point before May 2020 did the respondent, the overwhelming majority of whose leadership appears to have belonged to the group protected by the transitional provisions, raise any objection in principle to the transitional provisions. On the contrary, it actively championed them for the best part of eight years.”

Steve Hartshorn, national chair, and Calum Macleod, national secretary at PFEW, said: “Regarding the judgment, it is a lengthy and detailed document and we continue to reflect on the tribunal’s comments and findings that make difficult reading. We are dedicated to re-establishing a positive and constructive relationship with our members that they deserve and although we appreciate that this will take time, as an organisation, we are committed to achieving this.”

Sign up to our newsletters

Receive news and guidance on a range of HR issues direct to your inbox

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Mandy Bhattal, a senior associate at Leigh Day, which represented the police officers at the tribunal, added: “PFEW has a responsibility to challenge the government but instead, not only did it ignore its responsibility to protect and represent members, it actively campaigned against police pensions claims to the detriment of many young police officers.”

The claims against PFEW will return to the tribunal so compensation can be assessed.