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Government “short-changing” doctors and teachers over pension schemes

The government could be facing legal challenges from hundreds of thousands of teachers and doctors relating to changes to their pension schemes according to the lawyers who successfully challenged the government on judicial pensions.

Teacher and doctor

27 August 2019

Law firm Leigh Day believes that teachers and doctors have grounds for a legal challenge against the government for age discrimination if they have been moved onto a less beneficial pension scheme.

As was the case with judges’ pensions, younger teachers and doctors have been forced to move onto a new government pension scheme which is less beneficial than their old scheme. Older teachers and doctors, who are within 10 years of retirement, have been allowed to stay on the old scheme. 

In December 2018 the Court of Appeal ruled that the Ministry of Justice had discriminated against judges on the grounds of age, race and equal pay in relation to changes to their pension. This ruling also covered a separate challenge brought by firefighters in relation to the same issue. In June 2019 the Supreme Court rejected the government’s application to appeal the ruling, bringing the case to a close.

Leigh Day believes that this problem persists across the public sector and is preparing to bring a claim on behalf of  teachers and doctors against the government. A dedicated website for information about the claims has been created

Leigh Day already represents around 15,000 police officers whose claims for age discrimination have been lodged with the Employment Tribunal.

The Government introduced changes to pensions across the public sector in April 2015 with the intention of reducing the cost of public sector pensions. The changes were introduced in such a way as to protect older public sector workers by allowing them to remain in their current pension scheme but ejecting younger workers born after a certain date from those schemes, despite the contributions they had already made and forcing them to join far less valuable schemes.  The changes took effect from 1 April 2015 but the negative consequences of the changes and the tax implications are only now being realised by many public sector workers.

Even if the government makes changes now to address the discrimination going forward, there is no guarantee that it will compensate public sector workers for the past discrimination that has been taking place since April 2015 unless they bring a legal challenge.

Nigel Mackay, partner at law firm Leigh Day, said:

“We believe the government is short-changing hundreds of thousands of hard-working doctors and teachers. 

“Public sector pension schemes have been known to provide better than average benefits to reflect the valuable contribution that those in the public sector make to society. However, the changes made by the government have unfairly left younger public sector workers out of pocket.  

“As a result of the Supreme Court ruling in June the government has ran out of options in relation to those judges and firefighters who have brought claims. However, it has not made any commitments to remedy the issue for any judges or firefighters who have not brought claims, or any other public sector workers, including doctors or teachers, that have been affected by the same changes to their pension policy.”  

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