Lawyers have been accused of trying to make money on the back of teachers’ claims for compensation over age discrimination in the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS).
The NEU teaching union is concerned about law firm Leigh Day charging individual teachers a fee of £1,500 for acting on their behalf in seeking compensation. It says that the action isn’t needed because teachers have been told they will be compensated anyway.
NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “These cases are wholly unnecessary, as Leigh Day knows. Teachers have already been told by government that they will be compensated. Leigh Day is simply trying to make money for itself.”
Changes to the TPS, 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.
The Court of Appeal ruled that similar changes to judges’ and firefighters' pensions constituted unlawful age discrimination, and after losing an appeal, the government accepted that the judgment applied to all main public service pension schemes, including teachers'.
Leigh Day is now in the process of issuing the first claims for compensation on behalf of 300 teachers and says that, without it, there is no guarantee teachers will receive any remedy.
Nigel Mackay, solicitor at Leigh Day, said: ”The government has only ever said that it is working to address the difference in treatment. At most, this commits them to looking to remove the discrimination at some point in the future.
"They have never said that they will remedy all teachers in full for the discrimination already suffered from 2015 up to the point in the future when they address the discrimination.
"In every pension case we are involved in – over 15,000 to date – the only people who the government has conceded will get the remedy are those with claims lodged with the tribunal. It remains the case that the only way to ensure you receive a full remedy for the period from 2015 is to bring a successful claim.”
Leigh Day says it is charging a fee of either £1,500 or 25 per cent of any financial benefit received, whichever is the lower amount.
The firm says it is acting under a “no-win-no-fee” agreement, so its clients will not have to pay anything unless they win their claim.
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”.