A law firm is issuing a group legal claim on behalf of more than 300 teachers on the grounds they have suffered age discrimination as a result of changes to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.
The changes, introduced in 2015, meant teachers who were at least a decade away from retirement were moved from final-salary arrangements to average-salary arrangements, whereas older teachers closer to retirement were allowed to remain on the more beneficial final-salary arrangements.
Law firm Leigh Day says thousands more teachers could be owed compensation, and is issuing the first group claim to the Employment Tribunal.
The firm estimates that teachers would need to invest around £20,000 extra per year, on average, during their working lives – for example, in a private pension scheme – to make up for the pension they lose because of the changes.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal has already ruled that similar changes to judges’ pensions and police pensions constituted unlawful age discrimination, and the government subsequently accepted that the judgment applied to all main public service pension schemes, including teachers.
However, Leigh Day says that, without bringing claims, there is no guarantee teachers will receive any remedy. It is also representing police officers and doctors.
Partner Nigel Mackay said: “We have started issuing claims on behalf of the growing group of teachers that we represent and we believe thousands more could bring a legal claim.
"We are determined to pursue these claims on behalf of our clients to ensure that the government remedies the discriminatory changes it made to our clients’ pension schemes."
However, the NASUWT teaching union says its members could potentially save money by allowing the union's legal experts to act on their behalf rather than hiring lawyers.
A spokesperson said the union had lodged “a pre-action letter” to the government, but that it was hoped legal action wouldn’t be needed and that “an acceptable solution” could be found.
She added: “Legal services are part of the benefits teachers get when joining the union so affected teachers could potentially save money if the case was to go to court as they would be covered by any action we took rather than having to pay their own lawyers.”
Richard Tanton, director of member support at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The government has accepted that the court ruling applies to all main public service pension schemes, including the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, and it is currently considering the next steps on how to apply the ruling. We will study its decision closely and will advise our members accordingly.”
Earlier this month, the Teachers’ Pension Scheme annual accounts for 2018-19 revealed the expected impact of the Court of Appeal ruling could cost an estimated £7 billion in “past service cost”.
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: "Following the decision in the Court of Appeal in December 2018, the government confirmed that the difference in treatment would need to be addressed across the main public sector schemes, including the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.
“We are working with HM Treasury to remedy the difference in treatment for all members of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme with relevant service, regardless of whether they have lodged a claim.”