The Department for Health and Social Care has conceded that the imposition of the 2015 NHS pension scheme unlawfully discriminated against members through its transitional provisions from those members’ previous schemes.
The changes relate to the transitional provisions between the 1995-2008 and 2015 schemes that were offered to older members – those within 10 years of retirement in April 2012 – and allowed them to remain on the 1995/2008 final salary scheme rather than be forced to join the less favourable 2015 pension scheme. As a result of this, tens of thousands of younger doctors potentially suffered not only a reduction in their pension but an enforced increase in the age at which they could retire, compared with their older colleagues.
After claims supported by the BMA were lodged in the employment tribunal in June 2019, the Government admitted late last year that these transitional provisions discriminated against some members of the scheme because of their age. This followed successful challenges by judges and firefighters against their respective pension schemes. The scheme itself has not been deemed unlawful but these transitional provisions and the protection offered to older members and not their younger colleagues.
BMA lawyers have launched claims against the respective departments of health and other relevant department bodies on behalf of affected members – from all four countries of the UK – to seek resolution of the discrimination they suffered. This case is now on hold pending the final decision on how the firefighters’ and judges’ claims will be remedied.
Following the Government’s admission that the transitional provisions are discriminatory, the association is now focused on securing a remedy which is tailored for all doctors.
The BMA pensions committee has been doing extensive work on this. As well as the reduction in pension and increase in retirement age, it has identified a number of additional ‘detriments’ that may be suffered by members as a result of being moved on to the 2015 scheme. These include doctors who have overpaid annual allowance tax, lost their mental health officer status, cancelled ‘added years’ contracts, switched to the 2008 scheme because of the imposition of the 2015 scheme as well as a number of other potential detriments.
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The committee remains keen to hear from doctors who believe their pension pots have been affected by other consequences of the 2015 scheme.
BMA pensions committee chair Vishal Sharma (pictured above) said he was absolutely committed to getting the best resolution and outcome for doctors affected by this age discrimination.
‘The BMA understands how important pensions are for its members and we will continue to fight to their corner on all fronts,’ he said. ‘I would encourage any member who feels they may have been affected by this discriminatory change to get in touch with the BMA,’ he added. ‘We are clear that no doctor should be disadvantaged as a result of this age discrimination and we are determined to get the best possible outcome for our members.’