UK - Temporary workers in the public sector may soon be eligible for full pension benefits following a landmark decision.
The European Court of Justice said UK legislation that did not allow agency or part-time workers to join a company pension scheme if it indirectly discriminated against women would have to be “overturned”.
The ECJ’s views follow the case of British lecturer Debra Allonby, who was sacked by Accrington and Rossendale College in 1996 and re-employed through an agency.
But she was not allowed to join the Teachers’ Superannuation Pension Scheme even though she was doing the same job as a part-time worker.She won the case against the college on the basis of sexual discrimination because fewer women than men met the scheme’s criterion.
It is now going to the Court of Appeal.
Lawyers say the ruling will “open the floodgates” for other female public sector temps who are in schemes which comprise mainly women – including the NHS Pension Scheme.
NATFHE union solicitor Michael Scott, who was involved in the Allonby case, said: “In the light of this decision, the UK government will almost certainly have to change its rules to allow temporary workers to join public sector schemes.
“Many more cases can be won so long as they can prove there is a disparate impact – or indirect sexual discrimination.”
He said the ruling would also help stop the “popular practice” of firms re-hiring staff on a part-time or contract basis in order to save on their pension costs.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber agreed.
“Hopefully this will help curtail the public sector practice of sacking workers only to re-employ them as agency staff on worse pay and pensions.”
He added: “The decision also highlights the need for the government to lift its block on the EU Temporary Agency Worker Directive, which could end the under-paying and mistreatment of agency workers.”
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