Part-time firefighters win eight-year battle for equal pension and sick pay rights

An eight-year legal battle to secure part-time firefighters the same rights to pensions and sick pay as their full-time colleagues has ended in victory.

The Croydon Employment Tribunal ruled that firefighters working retained duty – those who are typically on call for 120 hours a week – were discriminated against when they were denied access to a pension and the same pro-rata sick pay as full-time firefighters.

The case ends years of legal battles between the Fire Brigades Union and all UK fire service employers of firefighters.

Back in 2000, the FBU selected 12 cases from the Royal Berkshire and Kent and Medway Towns Fire Authorities, out of 12,000 lodged, to fight the discrimination claims.

Initially those claims were rejected at the Employment Tribunal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal.

But in 2006, the House of Lords overturned the original tribunal ruling, stating it had misapplied the Part-Time Workers Regulations by concluding the work of retained and whole-time firefighters was different – when in fact it is “indistinguishable”.

The tribunal judgment marks the first case to apply the legal precedent set by the House of Lords.

It will mean the 18,000 firefighters working retained duty in the UK are now eligible for sick pay benefits and a pension, and potentially other benefits.

Duncan Milligan, an FBU spokesman, told Personnel Today: “This case is the only legal precedent in terms of applying the 2006 House of Lords ruling. The finding in law is that there has to be equal treatment on a whole number of employment issues. Potentially, this includes access to other work-related benefits beyond sick pay and pension, such as training and expenses.”

Milligan added the ruling will have a major knock-on effect for part-time workers across the country.

“It is not true that employers treat part-time workers the same as full-time employees when it comes to sick pay and pension rights. This case sets the precedent that they must.”

However, Milligan warned that the tribunal decision could still be appealed.

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