UK govt launches judicial pensions consultation

The UK government has launched a consultation to seek views on proposed amendments to the Fee-Paid Judicial Pension Scheme (FPJPS), designed to reflect recent Supreme and European Union Court rulings.

As reported by our sister title, Pensions Age, it has also confirmed a number of upcoming judicial pensions policy consultations, which are expected to be published “shortly”.

This includes a consultation to seek views around future reform of the judicial pension scheme to address recruitment and retention issues, and on around changes to the mandatory retirement age for judicial offices is also expected.

A consultation on proposals designed to rectify the discrimination identified in the McCloud litigation was also confirmed, with the DWP having previously confirmed in March that it was “developing proposals” in response to this ruling.

Currently, pension benefits under FPJPS only accrue for fee-paid judicial service on or after 7 April 2020, the date by which time the UK was required to transpose the Part-Time Work Directive (PTWD) into domestic law.

However, a 2018 ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union on the O'Brien case concluded that part-time work undertaken before the deadline for transposing the PTWD on 7 April 2020 must be taken into account for the purposes of calculating a pension.

Proposed changes to the FPJPS are designed to remedy the position for the 2018 O'Brien judgement, and ensure that where judicial service continues up to or past 7 April 2020, membership is still available in relation to eligible fee-paid judicial services for periods before this.

The consultation stated that the current provisions of FPJPS can be extended to cover the entire time period during which a salaried judged with have joined, describing this as “relatively straightforward”.

However, for service prior to 31 March 1996, the government has proposed amending FPJPS to provide pro-rata pension entitlement based upon the benefits that were available to salaried judges in judicial schemes at the relevant time.

Furthermore, where a salaried judge would have been a member of a civil service scheme, it has proposed giving judicial office holders a service credit in FPJPS for the period between their appointment and when the salaried judge became entitled to be a member of a judicial pension scheme.

The consultation also outlines potential amendments to membership criteria in FPJPS which would better reflect the linked Miller judgment.

This ruling found that the three-month time limit under the Part Time Workers Regulations 2000 for claims to made in relation to the O’Brien judgements runs from the date of a claimant’s retirement from all judicial offices, and not from the end of each fee-paid appointment.

The government is also seeking views on proposals to update the list of judicial offices in the schedule of fee-paid offices in the FPJPS regulations, again in relation to the O’Brien and Miller judgments.

The consultation, which closes on 18 September, is aimed at members of the judiciary, both salaried and fee paid, who are entitled to be members of a judicial pension scheme, as well as pension industry professionals.

The government anticipates that the amended regulations will then be ready to come into force from 2022, as the necessary statutory instrument would be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, and therefore would need to be laid before both Houses of Parliament.

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