Four judges with 'portfolio' careers in full-time and part-time roles and without formal contracts of employment have been backed by the Supreme Court in their campaign for equal pensions treatment. Giving judgment today in Miller and others v Ministry of Justice, Lord Carnwath ruled that 'the common sense of the matter' as well as case law holds that part-timers should not suffer less favourable treatment. 

In a unanimous judgment, Lady Hale, Lord Reed, Lord Wilson and Lady Arden agreed. 

National firm Browne Jacobson, which is acting for around 400 judges in their claim for equal treatment, estimated that the judgment could cost the Ministry of Justice up to £1 billion.

The appellants were four judges, each of whom held one or more appointments as fee-paid part-time judges before full-time appointment. They brought claims on the basis that they had been the subject of less favourable treatment in the provision of a pension. The appeal to the Supreme Court concerned the question of when the less favourable treatment occurred. Each judge had lodged a claim with the employment tribunal more than three months after the end of a part-time appointment, which was out of time under the Part Time Workers Directive (PTWR).

However the appellants argued that their claims were not out of time on the basis that the less favourable treatment continues up to and including the point of retirement. 

The Supreme Court overturned the employment tribunal's finding that the three months started to run from the end of any part-time appointment and found that neither the Upper Tribunal nor Court of Appeal had given the matter substantive judicial consideration. 

The judgment concludes that, as judicial officers are not employed under a contract of employment, the PTWR must be construed in an artificial context. This accords with case law stating that the point of unequal treatment occurs at the time the pension falls to be paid, and 'accords with the common sense of the matter', Lord Carnwath said. 

Commenting on the case, Caroline Jones, senior associate at Browne Jacobson, said: 'The appellants are delighted by the judgment and that equal treatment has finally been achieved. This judgment means that fee-paid judges who were subsequently appointed full-time salaried members of the judiciary will now be entitled to pensions in respect of their former part-time service.'


Robin Allen QC and Rachel Crasnow QC, instructed by Caroline Jones and Tim Johnson of  Browne Jacobson LLP, appeared for the appellants; John Cavanagh QC and Charles Bourne QC, instructed by the Government Legal Department, for the respondent.