12th March 2019 Rosalind Connor comments in Professional Pensions on DWP delay leaving schemes vulnerable to breaching the Equality Act 2010
A government failure to update equality legislation means schemes offering bridging pensions might not comply with regulations under the Equality Act 2010 – leaving them reliant on the overriding principles of EU law as an interim solution.
The DWP had said that the revised legislation would “come into force at the earliest opportunity, subject to parliamentary approval”, but the order has yet to make its way onto the floor of the Houses of Parliament.
Rosalind Connor said that the problems would apply to those schemes whose rules are tied specifically to the state pension age.
“In this case, the scheme will expect reduction at 66, but this is in breach of the regulations, at which point the trustees have to choose to breach the regulations or pay the higher pension forever,” Rosalind said.
Despite this, Rosalind commented that schemes which continued to pay bridging pensions would likely be able to rely on the underlying EU Equal Treatment Directives, which allow discrimination in certain circumstances where it is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.
“If someone pays a bridging pension to 66, they are doing what the government thought was a proportionate aim, and I think it would be very difficult to argue that they are in breach of the Equality Act.”
She added that this is a “classic case of the problem with regulations being too precise”, noting “this whole mess” could have been avoided if the legislation had been tied to bridging pensions rather than specific ages.
Read Rosalind’s comments in Professional Pensions
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