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Disability Discrimination and Local Government Pensions

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[Thanks to Emma Price of 1 Temple Gardens for preparing this case summary]

The Court of Appeal has handed down its decision in Booth v Oldham MBC, an interesting case about 1) the effect of a failed DDA claim on a breach of contract action brought in relation to an employer's decision about pension entitlement and 2) the need for exhaustion of remedies provided by the 1997 Pension Regulations before resort to litigation.

Mr Booth was dismissed in August 2001 on grounds of capability, having been signed off for stress and depression. He brought an ET claim for disability discrimination. Had he been deemed permanently incapable of discharging efficiently his duties of employment because of ill-health or infirmity of mind or body then - under regulation 27 of the Pension Regulations (which govern the Local Government Pension Scheme) - he would have been entitled to additional pension benefits. However, after the ET held that Mr Booth was not a disabled person for the purposes of the DDA 1995, the Council decided not to medically examine Mr Booth to establish if he qualified for those additional pension benefits. Whilst Mr Booth appealed the ET decision (unsuccessfully) he did not avail himself of all of the dispute resolution remedies provided by the Pension Regulations. 

Mr Booth brought a breach of contract action several years later, arguing that, had they referred him for medical assessment, he would have satisfied the criteria for ill-health under regulation 27 and he would have been awarded permanent ill-health retirement.

The claim was dismissed by the High Court and, subsequently, by the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal held:-

  • given the finding of the ET in relation to disability, Mr Booth could not successfully contend that the Council remained under a duty to medically assess him. Lord Justice Thomas stated that there was no need to consider whether a person who is found not to be under a disability under the DDA will always fail to establish permanent incapacity under the Pensions Regulations since there was clear evidence in this case that Mr Booth did not satisfy the latter test. 
  • as the Pension Regulations provided dispute resolution machinery by which to challenge the Council's decision, which Mr Booth had not availed himself of, he had no right to bring his claim at all.