Pensions - Update
Age Discrimination – Injury to Feelings Claims
Following the outcome at the Court of Appeal back in December 2018 where it ruled that the ‘transitional protection’ offered to some members of the judges’ and firefighters’ schemes, as part of the government pension reforms, gave rise to unlawful discrimination.
The Court of Appeal determined in its judgment in Sargeant that the transitional provisions in the Firefighters’ pension schemes resulted in direct age discrimination between:
- those who were members of the old scheme (the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme) (“FPS”) and were fully transitionally protected by remaining in that Scheme after 31st March 2015 as a result of being an active member under the 1992 Scheme on 31st March 2012
- those who were members of the FPS as at 31st March 2012 and were not treated as fully transitionally protected and moved to the new Firefighters’ Pension Schemes after 31st March 2015
In the light of this, the Tribunal in the Sargeant case gave an interim declaration that the claimants (who all fell in within category (b)) are entitled to be treated as if they had been given full transitional protection and had remained in their current scheme after 1 April 2015.
Changes to the Firefighter Pension Schemes
The difference in treatment will in due course be removed for all members with relevant service across all the main public service pension schemes – not just those who have lodged legal claims. Any solution will need to ensure that all members can instead keep the pensions they have earned to date.
The Government launched a public consultation on changes to the schemes, holding a series of technical discussions with stakeholders. The technical discussions were held with the Firefighters’ Pensions Scheme Advisory Board (SAB). The SAB comprises of the Fire Brigade’s Union; Fire and Rescue Services Association, the Fire Officers’ Association and the Fire Leaders’ Association as well as employer representatives.
It has been acknowledged by the SAB that some members are likely to have been better off remaining in their old scheme, while others may benefit more from the new scheme (2015) – that will depend on the individual circumstances of affected members. Any changes to the scheme must take account of this in order to ensure members can keep benefits they have already accrued.
The technical discussions considered changes to the scheme which are necessary:
- in order to remove discriminatory provisions from the public service pension schemes for non- claimants; and
- to ensure individuals can keep benefits they have accrued regardless of changes needed to remove discrimination, for example if they would have been better off in the new scheme.
Ill-health retirees and those who have already retired
The SAB were assured by the Government that it is urgently addressing the position of scheme members who have been ill-health retired or have already retired from the 2015 scheme. This piece of work is extremely complex and will take some time, however if you are an affected claimant please contact FRSA HQ.
2015 Firefighters’ Pension Scheme Detrimental Impacts Arising from Transitional Provisions
Back in November 2019 the FRSA and the Fire Officers’ Association (FOA) wrote a joint letter to the then Fire Minister (Kit Malthouse MP), requesting government assurances regarding the treatment of claimants and non-claimants in terms of financial loss and/or injury to feelings compensation.
We had expected the process to be similar to that undertaken during the Part-time Workers Less Favourable Treatment (PTWLFT) cases, whereby serving personnel received the same level of compensation irrespective of whether an individual claim had or had not been made.
However, such an assurance has not been received to date so we feel it necessary to protect our members by opening up the opportunity to provide the FRSA with information relating to any potential claims relating to financial loss and/or injury to feelings.
You should be aware that supporting evidence will be needed to support any specific claim for compensation and such evidence will be peculiar to each member’s circumstances. It is, therefore, recommended that anyone believing they have suffered significant injury or financial loss (other than loss relating to pension benefits) should begin to collate supporting evidence.
If this were not a complicated enough subject as it is, it should also be highlighted that in most cases it is very likely that membership of the new 2015 Scheme is more beneficial to members than the 2006/7 Scheme due to its member benefits package. However, this will be dependent on individual circumstances.
We anticipate that few members will have incurred additional expenditure but there may be exceptions. You may for example, have obtained and paid for independent financial advice to assist you with your financial planning.
Most members of the 2006 New Firefighters Pension Scheme (NFPS) will not yet have lost any pension benefits as a consequence of not transferring to the 2015 scheme. However, there may be exceptions.
Injury to feelings
Some members may have been more upset or angry about what has happened than others. For instance, you may have had to change your retirement plans or other financial arrangements which, whilst it has not caused a financial loss (see above), it has caused more mental suffering than is common to all other members. Some members may have become depressed to the point that they have sought medical help.
If you believe that this applies to you then please complete the attached form and return it to us.