The Employment Appeal Tribunal has held that the transitional provisions for changes to the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme were objectively justified and therefore not discriminatory on grounds of age, race or sex.

pension scheme

Under transitional provisions in the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme 2015 anyone within 10 years of normal pension age (NPA) would remain on the old, more favourable pension scheme. Anyone more than 14 years away from NPA would transfer straight onto the new scheme, and there was a tapering of benefits for anyone with 10-14 years to go until NPA.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal has to decide whether these provisions were discriminatory. In its view, an earlier tribunal had been wrong to allow the government a ‘margin of discretion’ in deciding whether the measures were proportionate. It should, the Employment Appeal Tribunal said, have applied a higher level of scrutiny and made up its own mind on proportionality.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal also overturned a finding of the tribunal that there was no need to justify prima facie indirect sex and race discrimination, where the reason for the disproportionate adverse impact on women and BAME firefighters was age rather than sex or race.

Were pension scheme transitional provisions proportionate?

The Employment Appeal Tribunal remitted the case on the question of whether the transitional provisions were a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aims identified by the tribunal (protecting those closest to normal pension age; preventing a cliff edge between the protected and unprotected groups, and ensuring consistency across the public sector where similar changes were being made).

Case reference: Sargeant and others v London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority and others