Leigh Day has brought claims on behalf of over 15,000 current and former police officers, challenging the “transitional provisions” which created three levels of pension membership, namely (a) protected members; (b) tapered members; and (c) unprotected members.
The creation of these three levels has since been deemed unlawful as they discriminate because of age and cannot be justified. Protected members were treated more favourably than tapered and unprotected members because of age.
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Police pensions FAQs
What are the pension challenges about?
In 2011, Lord Hutton set out his final report to the government into reforms of public sector pensions.
In 2012, the government commenced a consultation process across the public sector into its proposals for pension reform. The process would involve a move away from the more generous public sector pension scheme based on final salary, towards a pension based on the average amount earned throughout the career. This affected Judges, firefighters, police officers, prison officers and civil servants amongst others.
Based primarily on an individual’s date of birth, they were either taken out of the better (final salary) pension scheme altogether and put into the less favourable (career average) newer scheme (the unprotected group); or they were allowed to stay in the final salary pension scheme for a limited period before moving onto the less favourable scheme (the tapered group); or they were allowed to remain on the older and better pension scheme (the protected group).
The police pensions claims were brought in the Employment Tribunal and related to the way in which some officers were moved out of the better pension scheme wholly or partially whilst others were not. The terms of the pension scheme which allowed this are known as 'transitional protections' or 'transitional provisions'.
We argued that transitional provisions (which give some officers a better deal than others under the pension reforms) based on date of birth were discriminatory because of age under the terms of the Equality Act 2010.
The issues involved in the police pensions challenge were whether the transitional provisions (i.e. the way in which some but not all employees were moved to the less favourable scheme) could objectively be justified by the police forces and the Home Secretary.
In 2018, the Court of Appeal decided that the equivalent changes in the Judges’ and Firefighters’ pension schemes could not be justified and an appeal to the Supreme Court was not permitted.
In 2019, the police forces and Home Secretary confirmed that the transitional provisions were discriminatory because of age.
Can the government make changes to pensions?
The Government has the power to change public sector pensions; however, they must do so lawfully and in a manner which is not discriminatory.
The police pension challenge does not dispute the government’s ability to close pension schemes and introduce new ones.
The crux of the current case relates to the manner in which the government arbitrarily (based on date of birth) moved some officers into the less favourable CARE 2015 scheme, but others were not moved at all.
We disputed the way in which the Government implemented the new pension scheme and the discriminatory impact it has had on younger officers without justification.
What are 'transitional provisions'?
The transitional provisions applied to the pension scheme affect all officers who were contributing to the previous 1987 and/or 2006 police pension schemes, and who joined the police force on or before 31 March 2012. Some officers who joined between 1 April 2012 and 31 March 2015 may also be affected.
Arrangements were made whereby some older police officers were exempted from the requirement to leave the 1987/2006 schemes ('protected officers'); some officers were required to join the CARE 2015 scheme on 1st April 2015 ('unprotected officers'); and other officers were/are required to move to the CARE 2015 scheme at a later date (“tapered officers”). This variation of treatment was due primarily to date of birth.
The term ‘transitional provisions’ describes the way the CARE 2015 scheme was implemented for some officers but not all, based on age/date of birth.
Now that the discrimination claims have been successful, what happens next?
We have secured a declaration for our clients which states that they are entitled to be treated the same as older officers. This means that from the time the CARE2015 pension scheme came into force (1 April 2015) they are entitled to be treated as though they are still a member of their 1987 or 2006 pension scheme.
In addition, in February 2021 the government produced a public sector pension consultation response which detailed how they intend to remedy the age discrimination across the entire affected public sector.
In discrimination cases, the claimants can ask the Employment Tribunal to award compensation for injury to feelings, which means compensation for the upset, hurt or distress the discrimination has caused the individual in addition to any financial losses. We are currently pursuing these awards and losses on behalf of our clients. These awards and losses are currently not recoverable by officers who have not brought a claim.
Can I instruct Leigh Day to bring a claim if I think I am affected by changes to my public sector pension?
Unfortunately Leigh Day is no longer accepting new claimants for any of the public sector pensions claims. You may, however, wish to approach your local Federation or Trade Union for assistance.
Please note that time limits apply to legal claims, from a matter of weeks to several years depending on the type of claim, so you may wish to act promptly. We are not in a position to provide advice to non-clients on the applicable limitation period on their matter.