A new pension scheme for fee-paid judges, established by the government after the Supreme Court backed a former part-time recorder's claim to a full pension, has been delayed.
In 2013 the Central London Employment Tribunal ruled former part-time recorder Dermod O’Brien was entitled to a full pension. It followed a Supreme Court judgment earlier that year that part-time judges are ‘workers’ for the purpose of the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000.
In a note issued yesterday, the ministry said planned implementation of the new scheme by 31 March was ‘no longer feasible’. It ‘anticipates’ the scheme will be implemented by 1 December.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said: ‘A complex period of litigation to test our proposals in court ended last month, which has resulted in a later implementation date for the scheme. However, the payments will be backdated.
‘As with the rest of the public service, we are committed to providing an affordable, flexible, sustainable and fair pension scheme, whilst safeguarding judicial independence.’
The scheme will mirror a current scheme for salaried judges, established by the Judicial Pensions and Retirement Act 1993 as far as possible, on a pro-rata basis.
In a response to a previous consultation on the scheme, the ministry said it did not consider that any fee-paid judges, of any background, would be treated less favourably than their salaried counterparts.
It stated: ‘The department takes seriously its legal duties in respect of equalities and equal opportunities, and is committed to ensuring no less favourable treatment based on background. The department will continue to monitor this in respect of the implementation of the [scheme].’
One judge responding to the consultation said the scheme ‘clearly’ had potential equalities impacts, as there was a ‘far better representation of younger judges, women and those from the BME community in the fee-paid judiciary in comparison with the salaried judiciary (and in particular the senior salaried judiciary)’.
The ministry’s latest note states that it is ‘committed’ to conducting a consultation on the draft regulations prior to them being laid in parliament. However it is ‘likely’ that the regulations will not be debated until the autumn.
Until the scheme is introduced, the ministry will continue to offer interim payments to eligible fee-paid judicial office-holders.