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Disability Discrimination

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Is the award of an enhanced pension on medical retirement "unfavourable treatment" under section 15 of the Equality Act 2010, if the amount is calculated based on part-time salary because the employee is working part-time as a result of a disability?

No, held the Supreme Court in Williams v Trustees of Swansea University Pension.

The Claimant was disabled by virtue of suffering from Tourette's syndrome and other conditions. His employer reduced his hours to part time as a reasonable adjustment.  He applied for ill health early retirement, which was granted when he was aged 38.

The pension scheme entitled him to a lump sum and annuity, payable immediately and with no actuarial reduction for early receipt, based on accrued benefits, as well as an enhancement calculated based on his salary at the time of retirement, as if he had continued to work to age 67.

He claimed that the calculation of his enhanced benefit amounted to unfavourable treatment since it was based on his part time salary and he was only working part time because of his disability. The tribunal agreed, but the EAT and the Court of Appeal did not.

The Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeal, holding that the 'treatment' in question was the immediate award of a pension. Had the Claimant not been disabled, he would not have been entitled to a pension at all at that time. The treatment was therefore not in any sense unfavourable, nor could it reasonably have been so regarded.

Thanks to Will Young of Outer Temple Chambers for preparing this case summary.