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Sex discrimination: Equality required in occupational pensions

This report relates to 1 case(s)

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    Barber v Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance Group [1990] IRLR 240 ECJ (2 other reports)

    • Equal pay: case law update

      2 March 2007

      This article looks at some of the significant judgments in the area of equal pay over the past year and their implications.

    • Occupational pensions are pay under EEC law

      1 July 1990

      In Barber v Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance Group (17 May 1990) EOR32A, the European Court of Justice takes the historic decision that a pension paid under a contracted-out occupational scheme falls within the scope of the directly enforceable prohibition against sex discrimination in Article 119 of the EEC Treaty. Discrimination on grounds of sex by employers in setting pensionable ages and in benefits provided is unlawful from the date of the Court's decision.

In practical terms for UK employers, the recent decision in Barber v Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance Group is probably the most momentous decision ever to emanate from the European Court of Justice. The Court holds that occupational pensions payable under a contracted-out scheme constitute "pay" under Article 119 of the Treaty of Rome, and so must be offered to men and women on equal terms. Therefore, any disparity in the age at which the pension becomes payable is unlawful. Given that Article 119 is directly enforceable in UK courts and tribunals, any such discrimination is immediately open to challenge. However, the Court limits the impact of its decision, by declaring that it will not have retrospective effect.