Pension windfall for part-timers

16th February 2001 at 00:00
Lords ruling is first step in battle to win payouts backdated to 1970s, reports Warwick Mansell.

THOUSANDS of teachers and lecturers could benefit from a House of Lords ruling giving part-time workers the right to claim pension payments from their employers dating back to the 1970s.

Seven years ago, a group of six unions - including the three largest teachers' - won a European Court of Justice ruling that part-timers could not be excluded from pension schemes. The judgement forced employers to admit part-time workers to such schemes.

However, under British law, claims could only be backdated for two years, and had to be made within six months of the end of the employment contract. The unions argued that employers should have to pay contributions dating back to 1976, the year European law first required equality in pensions.

Last week, that argument was upheld by the Lords. But only staff who lodged claims within six months of leaving work will benefit, after the Lords rejected a union plea to extend this time limit to six years.

A teacher with 25 years' service who worked part-time for 12 years, retiring on a salary of pound;24,000, could gain pound;1,800 extra in annual pension and a pound;5,400 lump sum.

In further education, 2,000 part-time lecturers have lodged claims with the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education.

Graam Clayton, senior solicitor for the National Union of Teachers, said many affected members were home tutors, part-time peripatetic teachers or supply staff employed by local authorities.

Most were women - a key factor that enabled unions to argue that excluding part-timers amounted to sexual discrimination.

However, the victory is only a first step as the cases must now go to employment tribunals.

The potential costs to British publci and private-sector employers has been estimated at between pound;10 billion and pound;17bn. But Mike Walker, of the teachers' employers association, said no estimate had yet been made of the cost to local education authorities.

Among those who may benefit from the ruling is former part-timer Ann Taylor. She could receive pension payments of pound;2,700 a year, plus a lump sum of around pound;8,000.

Ms Taylor's claim dates back to 1976, when she was working as a home tutor for pupils not attending school in Camden, north London. She was working by the hour and barred from the teachers' pension scheme, which meant she missed out on payments until she went full-time in 1986. She is still working in the same field for Camden, and lodged her claim with a tribunal in 1992.

Her right to payment could hinge on whether pension claims need to be lodged within six months of retirement, or the date when part-time work finished.

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