The Supreme Court today ruled that part-time judges are entitled to the same pension, pro rata, as their full-time colleagues.
The ruling will have important implications for solicitors currently working as part-time judges in courts and tribunals, as well as other part-time workers.
The ruling arises from a claim begun in the employment tribunal in 2005 by former part-time recorder Dermod O’Brien, who upon retirement was told that he was not entitled to a pension.
The case has since worked its way through the Employment Appeal Tribunal, the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court, the European Court of Justice and back to the Supreme Court for today’s judgment.
The case depended on whether the 1997 EU directive on part-time workers applied to judges and, if it did, whether excluding part-time judges from judicial pensions contravened both it and the Part-time Workers Regulations 2000 that implemented it into UK law.
The Supreme Court ruled that judges are ‘workers’ for the purposes of the 2000 regulations. It also ruled that excluding recorders from the judicial pensions scheme could not be objectively justified, but did not rule on the position of part-time judges other than recorders.
Employment partner Edward Benson at Midlands firm Browne Jacobson, who has acted for O'Brien since 2005, said that although the Supreme Court ruled on the position of recorders specifically, ‘logic would seem to argue’ that the ruling applied to all part-time judges.
Benson said: ‘We are delighted to have cleared the final hurdle that will ensure fair treatment for part-time judges. This decision also has wider implications and will be an important yardstick for part-time workers in ensuring that they cannot be treated less favourably [than full-time workers] just to save the employer money.’
The case will now be referred back to the employment tribunal to decide O’Brien’s pension entitlement.