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University did not discriminate over disabled employee’s pension

Posted: 22nd December 2015   In: Dispute Resolution

A university has won its appeal against a decision that it discriminated against a disabled employee when calculating his pension rights.

The case involved an employee at Swansea University who had to retire due to ill health at the age of 38.

His hours had been reduced gradually over several years to accommodate the effects of his disability until he was eventually working only half the full-time hours.

He agreed to retire in 2013 because he was incapable of fulfilling his duties. Under the rules of the pension scheme, he was entitled to an immediate pension, calculated as if he had worked until the age of 67.

The pension was based on his pensionable salary at the date of ill-health retirement. The employee argued that his pensionable salary should be doubled, as the only reason he had been working half the normal hours was because of the effects of his disability.

The tribunal concluded that the university and the trustees had treated him unfavourably because of his disability, in breach of the Equality Act 2010.

It also found that they had not shown that the treatment was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

That decision was overturned by the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

It held that the pension scheme rules actually favoured disabled people rather than discriminated against them. Those who were so significantly disabled as to be eligible for ill-health retirement under the terms of the scheme would be entitled to its benefits; conversely, no one would be entitled to those benefits unless they were sufficiently seriously disabled.

By comparison with any non-disabled person, an employee taking ill-health retirement was treated favourably. To argue the opposite would be perverse.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.

Posted by: Jackie Cuneen
Luton Office