Pension scheme and Part-timers

13 Jan 2012

Copple and others v Littlewoods Plc

Not so many years ago, it was common for part-timers to be excluded from occupational pension schemes. 

The Equal Pay Act 1970 made this unlawful, but many employers were slow to change.  Littlewoods Plc was in this camp.

The result was that hundreds of part-time female workers alleged that they had been discriminated against because they had, at some time, been prevented from joining Littlewoods' pension scheme after 1970.

However, some of the Claimants had not joined the scheme within three months of being allowed to do so. 

This led the Court of Appeal to consider whether claimants who probably would not have joined the pension scheme should be compensated for the fact that they were, for a period of time, excluded from it because they were part time workers?

The Court of Appeal decided:

– excluding the part-time female workers from the pension scheme had been unlawful sex discrimination;

– those part-time workers who would not have joined the scheme anyway and had therefore suffered no loss, were not entitled to compensation.  The law did not entitle female part-time workers who would not have joined the scheme to be in a better position than male full-time workers who also chose not to join the scheme.