Retained firefighters arguing for equal pension and sick pay rights are to have their case heard by the House of Lords today.
The case centres on the exclusion of retained fire officers from the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme and worse treatment under the sick pay scheme.
The UK has about 15,000 retained firefighters typically ‘on call’ for between 120 and 168 hours a week. They are employed on the basis that they have other jobs but have to work or live close to the fire stations so they can respond quickly to emergencies.
Employers argue that full-time firefighters and retained firefighters are not engaged in the same or broadly similar work and are not covered by the regulations or contract obligations.
But the firefighters claim they are being treated differently because they are part-time workers and that this is unlawful, under the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000.
The test case is being taken by 12 retained firefighters, six from Kent and six from Berkshire. Some 12,000 cases were originally started in employment tribunal in 2001 and whittled down to these 12 ‘lead’ cases.
The Fire Brigades Union, which is backing the test case, says it is about securing “fairness and justice” for every retained firefighter in the country.
“Retained firefighters have worked in the front line at almost every major incident. Huge areas of this country rely on retained firefighters and when the public are being rescued they don’t stop to ask your employment status.”
It is anticipated the hearing will last several days and that the judgment will be reserved.