UK - The pensions ombudsman has extended the jurisdiction of his office after taking on a case based on age discrimination.
The complaint – brought by a member of the £16bn Consignia Pension Plan, Mr Swanson – claimed that the Royal Mail broke its age discrimination policy in its pension scheme rules.
The rules state that anyone made redundant between the ages of 53 and 59 will receive enhanced benefits to their pension, to make up for the contributions they will have lost, between their redundancy and the firm’s normal retirement age of 60.
As Mr Swanson took voluntary redundancy at 56 he claimed that he missed out on the benefits that someone made redundant at 53 would have received. He calculated this shortfall as £12,088.
The ombudsman, David Laverick, was sympathetic to Swanson’s plea but, with no laws governing age discrimination, he was unconvinced that the employer was in the wrong.
Laverick said: “Mr Swanson seeks to argue that he cannot in any circumstances be treated differently because of his age.
“I do not agree. What the document is aimed at averting is unfair treatment. Different treatment is not necessarily unfair treatment.”
Pinsent Curtis Biddle solicitor Simon Tyler said that this is the first time the ombudsman had looked at the issue of age discrimination “in depth”, and is liable to open the floodgates for similar cases in the future.
In regard to the ombudsman’s determination, Tyler added that Laverick’s decision could easily have been different.
“The subject of age discrimination in the context of pension provision is fraught with difficulties.
“The very basis of a pension is that a certain amount should be payable at a certain age. No employee benefit is more fundamentally ‘age discriminatory’.”
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