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Public sector pensions: our legal action moves forward

7 Jul 2022

A judge has approved our right to challenge the UK government’s reduction in the value of the new pension schemes for NHS employees and other public sector workers.

Bank note with pension text

A judge is to decide whether the UK government’s attempt to use savings from the public sector pension schemes to rectify age discrimination was lawful, as we continue to fight for our members to get the pensions they deserve. 

In December last year, the RCN applied to challenge plans to make members of the NHS and other public sector pension schemes share the cost of resolving the age discrimination which resulted from the public sector pension reforms in 2015.  

The reforms, which the UK government said were an attempt to ensure the scheme was fairer and more affordable, meant that older workers were allowed more favourable pension arrangements for longer while younger workers moved to an inferior pension scheme sooner. 

In 2018, in a ruling known as the McCloud judgment, the courts found this amounted to age discrimination towards the younger workers. 

Facing estimated costs of £17 billion to rectify this, the UK government has tried to use savings from the schemes to pay for its discrimination rather than pass those savings on to members. 

These savings resulted from a 6% rise in the value of the schemes. The schemes are valued every four years and savings resulting from any change of more than 2% must be passed on. 

This week permission for a judicial review was granted. It means a judge will decide if the government’s action is lawful or not. The hearing is expected to be held later this year. 

If the judge rules in the RCN’s favour, then ministers will be expected to pass on the savings to the schemes' members.

Denise Kelly, Chair of the RCN’s Trade Union Committee, said: “Our members deserve to have the pensions they’re entitled to after years of devoted service to the NHS. 

“The government needs to put its hands in its pocket and meet the bill for its discrimination, not our members.  

“We are adamant that our members won’t be left out of pocket and we hope the court will find in our favour.” 

The judicial review is being led by the Fire Brigades Union as the case specifically relates to the firefighters’ pension scheme. But the RCN is an interested party and the outcome will have ramifications for members of the NHS pension scheme.


Page last updated - 07/07/2022