Given the numerous bulletins and updates provided by the NCOA, NCA and wider national reporting, you will be familiar with the McCloud judgement which ruled that recent enforced changes to public sector pensions were discriminatory in terms of age. An Employment Tribunal hearing will take place later this year which will determine the remedy to remove such discrimination.
The Government has responded positively to the ruling and has guaranteed there will be ‘no detriment’ to any individual at the point the remedy is applied.
Early indications suggest that those affected by the ruling are likely to be offered the opportunity to move back to their original pension schemes – if that is what they want. But, to reiterate, the remedy hearing has not yet taken place and until it does, nothing has been finalised.
For those of you who were members of either the Civil Service or Police Schemes prior to April 2012, these changes had a huge impact on long term financial planning as retirement dates were moved back and predicted lump sums were significantly reduced. Unfortunately, these changes were introduced prior to the formation of the NCOA which means we were simply not able to challenge or influence matters at the time.
Following the subsequent legal challenge led by a group of Judges and latterly the Fire Brigade Union, a number of interested parties have decided to pursue injury awards as a result of the damage caused by the now upheld discrimination. These awards will be considered by the Judge as part of the remedy hearing but are ancillary to the remedy itself.
The Judge may decide that no damages can be paid out to these claimants even though discrimination has taken place and, even if an award is made it is likely to be extremely modest in nature and will only be paid to those who have personally lodged a claim.
Behind the scenes, we continue to be involved in direct meetings with Cabinet Office officials to discuss the impact of the McCloud judgement on those within the NCOA who are members of any of the Civil Service Pension schemes (Classic, Classic Plus, Premium, Nuvos & Alpha), or in far smaller numbers the Police Pension Schemes.
The NCA is a Civil Service Pension provider although a number of officers have been able to join the organisation and retain their membership of the Police Schemes. In light of this, I have maintained close dialogue with my counterpart at the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) to ensure that our members interests are noted in any legal processes linked to the remedy hearing, which they have been taking part in as ‘interested parties’.
Some of you will be aware that the PFEW has very recently decided to allow members who have been affected by the McCloud judgement to issue a claim for damages through a Class Action utilising Solicitors at Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP. A Class Action is a cost-effective way of linking together a large group of individuals with a shared complaint against the same alleged ‘wrongdoer’.
Given the shared interest and evidence of our ongoing collaboration over key issues since our inception, the PFEW has kindly offered to include NCA Police Pension contributors affected by the pension changes within this Class Action. Whilst the initial member engagement will remain with us, once verification and validation has taken place, the ensuing legal process will be managed by the PFEW and Penningtons Manches Cooper. We estimate this relates to no more than 40 NCOA members.
The NCOA already have a professional working relationship with Penningtons who have provided us with detailed legal advice and representation on other important but unrelated issues over a number of years.
Although the damaging pension changes were developed and implemented prior to the formation of the NCOA, we do not underestimate the subsequent angst and stress caused to many of our members. For this reason and without any firm commitment at this time, we are considering presenting a bespoke NCOA Class Action on your behalf.
Although a Class Action is considered to be far more cost effective than presenting numerous individual cases, it is still an extremely expensive process for which legal costs cannot be recovered. It is also likely to result in a modest award or worse still, no award at all.
As a responsible and relatively new Trade Union, we therefore have to consider the most appropriate use of our limited funds given that our existing legal provisions will not support any action linked to an event which took place before our formation. Such action would considerably impact our reserves which are almost entirely derived from members subscriptions.
Whilst we have not closed the door to an NCOA Pension Class Action, it is important as a democratic Trade Union that we respond to member interest before making any commitment. In order to understand member feeling at this time we have prepared a short questionnaire which you will be able to submit from 9am today, until 9am on Wednesday 10th June 2020.
Given the strict time pressures linked to the ongoing tribunal, these questionnaires may form part of the first phase of engagement with any lawyers should we decide to push forward with a Class Action. Therefore, Questionnaires received after the deadline of 9am 10th June will not be considered.
You can access the questionnaire by clicking on the link now:
Am I eligible to take part in any Class Action claim which the NCOA may decide to instigate on members’ behalf?
Eligible applicants must be existing NCOA members as at 2nd June 2020:
- Who were in service prior to 1 April 2012 and members of either a Civil Service or Police pension scheme at that time, and
- Who did not receive full protection in respect of not having to move into any new Civil Service or Police Pension Scheme in 2015 and
- Who subsequently remained in a Civil Service or Police pension.
- Claimants must not have previously lodged a legal claim as a result of discrimination in relation to transitional pension arrangements.
If we subsequently decide to push forward with a Class Action, eligibility will of course be subject to further verification including by any Solicitors appointed by the NCOA.
I will ensure you are kept updated once key decisions have been made and matters progress further.
NCOA General Secretary