BMA calls for age discrimination remedy to be ‘tailored for all doctors’

The British Medical Association (BMA) has reiterated its support for those doctors affected by ‘discriminatory’ pension scheme changes, calling for a remedy which is “tailored for all doctors”.

The BMA confirmed that legal claims against the respective departments of health, on behalf of affected members, had been placed on hold pending the final decision as to how the firefighters’ and judges’ claims will be remedied.

The changes in the NHS scheme relate to the transitional provisions between the 1995-2008 and 2015 schemes that were offered to older members, allowing them to remain on the 1995/2008 final salary scheme rather than be forced to join the “less favourable” 2015 pension scheme.

At an employment tribunal late last year, the government admitted that these transitional provisions discriminated against some members of the scheme because of their age, following the successful challenges of the judges and firefighters.

Although the scheme itself was not deemed unlawful at this time, the BMA has since stated that the protections offered are “likely to amount to unlawful age discrimination”, confirming that despite the current hold, it will continue with its own legal case “to ensure members are fully supported”.

However, since the government’s admission that the transitional provisions are discriminatory, the association had switched its focus to securing a “remedy which is tailored for all doctors”.

The BMA stated that it has already undertaken “extensive work” as part of this, working to identify a number of “additional detriments” that members have suffered as a result of being moved onto the 2015 scheme.

This includes doctors who have overpaid annual allowance tax, an issue which saw some workers cutting back hours or retiring early, those who lost their mental health officer status, and those with cancelled ‘added years’ contracts.

The BMA confirmed that it would be making a “considered response” to the governments ongoing consultation as to how to address the age discrimination issues.

However, it highlighted that individuals who have opted out of the scheme and are not active members will need to make a case for their inclusion in the remedy directly with NHS Business Services Authority (BSA).

The BMA confirmed that this was an area it had already been exploring as part of its own legal case, stating that it believes that members should not suffer any detriment as a result of the unlawful age discrimination.

It also stressed that once a remedy is decided, members will need to make decisions that are very dependent on individual circumstances, noting that professional independent financial and taxation advice could be needed.

BMA pensions committee chair, Vishal Sharma, commented: “The BMA understands how important pensions are for its members and we will continue to fight to their corner on all fronts.

“We are clear that no doctor should be disadvantaged as a result of this age discrimination and we are determined to get the best possible outcome for our members.’

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