The Union’s landmark legal case on the equalisation of Guaranteed Minimum Pensions (GMPs) has now been lodged with the High Court. Members will recall that the Bank, BTU and the Lloyds Banking Group Pensions Trustee Limited are bringing the case jointly.
Three representatives of the Lloyds Bank Pension Scheme No 1, Lloyds Bank Pension Scheme No 2 and HBOS Final Salary Pension Scheme have been joined to the proceedings to argue the case that benefits must be equalised on the basis most favourable to members. BTU’s solicitors and barristers are representing the three representative members in this case.
Our expectation is that the case will be heard by the High Court later this year.
So, What’s It All About?
The pensions, in particular the Guaranteed Minimum Pensions (GMPs), of female members of staff increase at a lower rate than the pensions of male pension scheme members. The discrimination affects female members who:
Under what’s called a ‘Part 8 Claim’, the GMP equalisation issues affecting the Schemes are put in front of the High Court in order to obtain a definitive ruling. In broad terms, the questions being put to the Court for its direction are set out overleaf.
There are some 270,000 members of the three Pension Schemes covered by this case. The majority of scheme members are female and the issues raised in our claim affect approximately 230,000.
However, the GMP equalisation issue is much bigger than just Lloyds Banking Group, affecting some 2,400 ‘contracted out’ private sector pension schemes with some 5 million female members. Many of those females will receive pension increases at lower rates than their male colleagues and they too could benefit from the outcome of this case.
What’s It Worth?
As part of the claim to the High Court, the Trustee has commissioned some high level work on the costs of equalising benefits. There are various methodologies that can be used to equalise the benefits and that’s one of the issues being put to the Court. That said, the cost of equalising benefits in Lloyds Banking Group could be up to £508 million, which is very similar to the figure produced by the Union’s actuarial advisers.
According to the pensions industry, the cost of equalising pensions across the 2,400 ‘contracted out’ pension schemes could be up to £20bn.
We will keep members informed of developments in this case but those who benefited from our non-signers legal victory know that the wheels of justice move slowly!
Members with any questions can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions To The High Court
1. Where male and female members of each of the three Schemes have earned GMPs referable to service in the period 17 May 1990 to 5 April 1997, is there an obligation on the Trustee to adjust non-GMP benefits payable under the Scheme in order that the total benefits received by male and female members with equivalent age, service and earnings histories are equal? Answering this question is likely to involve considering the legal issues identified already. As part of these issues, the Trustee seeks the Court’s ruling on whether the equalisation obligation (if any) is only engaged if an opposite sex comparator can be identified for the affected member, or if the obligation arises without the need to identify a comparator.
2. If there is an equalisation obligation, is there a single correct method by which the Trustee should seek to achieve such equalisation of benefits (and, if so, what is that method)? As part of this question, the Trustee seeks the Court’s ruling on whether it must as a matter of law adopt one of the methods identified already, or some other method of equalisation.
3. If there is a choice of methods, how should the Trustee’s powers under section 68 of the Equality Act 2010 (or any other relevant powers) be exercised in order to achieve such equalisation of benefits? This question will involve deciding in principle which method (insofar as legally permissible), or any other suitable method that has been identified, should be adopted for each of the Schemes. The Trustee intends to invite the Court to accept a surrender of its discretion as to the exercise of such powers.