Govt faces £4bn bill after leave to appeal denied in discrimination case

The government faces a £4bn bill after it lost permission to appeal a High Court ruling which found 2015 pension reforms discriminated on the grounds of age, race and equal pay.

In the landmark case, the government was today (27 June) denied leave to appeal the court decision of unlawful discrimination against a group of judges and firefighters, handed down in December 2018.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said the ruling leaves the government with “no further avenue to exhaust”. The case will now be remitted back to the employment tribunal for remedy.

Commenting on the decision, FBU general secretary, Mike Wrack, said: “This is a hard-fought victory for the union and more importantly for our members. FBU members took action for what they believed to be right, and today, we have been vindicated. We never gave up on our fight for justice, and we are delighted that our perseverance has paid off.

“This ruling proves that the government has discriminated against thousands of younger firefighters. They must now rectify the damage they unnecessarily caused."

Following the original ruling, brought forwards by the FBU, the government put a pause on the cost control mechanism which assesses the value of public pension services, "until there is certainty about the value of pensions to employees from April 2015 onwards".

Speaking at the time, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss said if the government lost the appeal, steps would have to be taken to compensate employees, estimated to cost around £4bn.

Both the judges and firefighters were part of DB pension schemes prior to 1 April 2015, when they were transferred into replacement schemes.

The judges were moved from the Judicial Pension Scheme (JPS) to the New Judicial Pension Scheme, and the government put provisions in place which ensured that older scheme members were allowed to remain members of the JPS.

The court ruling found that the transitional protections put in place were discriminatory against the judges who could not remain as members of the JPS.

“The Tory/Lib Dem government took no notice of the evidence we provided about the specific nature of firefighters’ work. An occupational pension should be based on the realities of that occupation. The government ignored this,” Wrack added.

“The overwhelming message from this fight is that unity is strength. When workers unite we can take on the bosses and the government, and we can win. This is not the end, we will continue to fight for pension justice across the board. The FBU will always fight for our members.”

It is thought that the case could have wider ramifications for the government, as other sections of the public sector pensions scheme also pursue legal proceedings.

It follows a High court ruling in April, that found making additional earnings through working extended hours or doing additional duties were pensionable.

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