Pike v (1) Somerset County Council (2) Secretary of State for Education and Skills Employment Appeal Tribunal

Mrs Pike was a teacher in Somerset, before she retired in late 1993 on ill-health grounds. As a member of the Teachers Pension Scheme (TPS), she started to receive retirement benefits through the TPS from her retirement date. In early 1994, Pike returned to work part-time.

Prior to retirement, both full-time and part-time teachers had equal access to the TPS. However, in accordance with the TPS rules, full-time teachers in receipt of a pension could rejoin the TPS if they re-commenced work, whereas part-time teachers could not.

Pike claimed this was in breach of the equality clause in her contract (and contrary to the Equal Pay Act), that the secretary of state had not provided her with equal access to pension rights (in accordance with the Pensions Schemes Act 1993) and that the provision in the TPS discriminated against part-time workers and, therefore, amounted to indirect discrimination against women.

The case looked at what the correct pool of comparators should be in deciding whether the rule in the TPS was discriminatory. Should all teachers who were members of the TPS be included or should it be limited to all members of the TPS who had returned to work after retirement? As the rule had the effect of advantaging or disadvantaging employees who returned to work after retirement (all of whom collectively ‘wanted’ further pensions benefits on their return to work), but the rule did not impact on any other members of the TPS, the EAT held that the correct comparator groups were the full-time returners who were effectively advantaged by the rule and the part-time returners who were disadvantaged by the rule.

Key points

  • While this case is fact specific, it highlights that when implementing any rule or provision care must be taken to ensure that the rule impacts equally on both men and women. Often any such impact may not be immediately obvious, and therefore it is important to consider whether any particular groups of employees (such as part-time workers who may be predominantly women) have been disadvantaged.

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