Using Part- Time Salary for Pension Calculation on Medical Retirement was not Unfavourable Treatment

In the case of Williams v Trustees of Swansea University Pension and Assurance Scheme, the Supreme Court has held the calculation of a disabled employee’s pension entitlement using his reduced, part- time salary (as opposed to his earlier full- time salary, prior to reasonable adjustments) did not constitute unfavourable treatment for the purposes of section 15 of the Equality Act 2010. 

The Claimant worked for Swansea University for around 13 years. He suffered from Tourette’s syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and other psychological disorders. He was disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 and during the last three years of his employment, the University agreed to reduce his hours by half as a reasonable adjustment. Eventually, the Claimants medical conditions worsened, to the extent that he was no longer able to work. He was granted ill- health early retirement at the age of 38.

The Claimant’s pension payments were calculated based on his salary at the time of retirement, which was his part- time salary.

The Claimant brought a claim in the employment tribunal for discrimination arising from a disability, on the basis that the calculation of his pension using his part- time salary (as opposed to his earlier full- time salary) amounted to unfavourable treatment. The Claimant succeeded at the employment tribunal, but both the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal disagreed on appeal.

The case has now been heard by the Supreme Court, which held that there was nothing intrinsically unfavourable or disadvantageous about the award to the Claimant of the pension. It was because of the Claimant’s disabilities that he was entitled to a pension. Had been able to work full time, he would have had no immediate right to a pension at all.

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