The UK government is facing a compensation bill of hundreds of millions of pounds after the country’s highest court ruled in favour of judges denied pensions for part-time work in a judgment that might affect more than 1,000 justices.
The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the four claimants, who had worked both part-time and then full-time, should not have been denied their pensions even though they did not make a claim to an employment tribunal within three months of completing the part-time work.
“This judgment means that fee-paid judges who were subsequently appointed full-time salaried members of the judiciary will now be entitled to pensions in respect of their former part-time service,” said Browne Jacobson, a law firm acting on behalf of the four appellants.
Browne Jacobson estimated that more than 1,000 judges could be entitled to back-payments and pensions, with the bill for the Ministry of Justice reaching up to £1bn.
The Ministry of Justice said it did not recognise the £1bn figure and added that while it was “disappointed” with the ruling, “we accept the court’s judgment and are considering how to implement it”.
Historically, part-time judges in fee-paid roles have not been eligible for membership of a judicial pension scheme, unlike full-time, salaried counterparts.
They won the right to a pension in 2013. However, a particular category of judges, who had held both fee-paid and salaried appointments, was subjected to time restrictions on when they could claim their pension rights under part-time workers’ regulations.
In 2014, the four judges submitted claims to an employment tribunal on the basis that they were treated less favourably than full-time counterparts regarding their pensions for the period of fee-paid service.
However, as each lodged their claims more than three months after the end of a part-time appointment, the tribunal ruled that the claims were “out of time”.
But in its ruling, the Supreme Court said it was “common sense” that such claims could be made at any time up to three months after retirement rather than within three months of completing the fee-paid work.
In 2019, the Judicial Pension Scheme set aside £301m in the event that the judges were successful in their challenge.
However, in its 2019 annual accounts, the scheme said the eventual amount of liability “may be significantly different from the estimate”.
— to www.ft.com