AT least a dozen doctors are to take legal action against the government because they believe they were forced to join a pension scheme that will result in huge financial losses when they retire.
The action, by the BMA’s legal team, comes in the wake of the government being refused leave to appeal a Court of Appeal decision which the government lost last December and centred on the Fire Brigades Union dispute over changes made to firefighters’ pensions in 2015.
The alterations meant that older members could stay in the existing and better pension scheme, and younger members had to transfer to a new and worse scheme, which was financially detrimental to them.
The FBU argued that the changes imposed on younger members were unlawful on age, sex and race discrimination grounds and inflicted huge financial losses.
The FBU initiated over 6,000 Employment Tribunal claims alleging that the changes amounted to unlawful discrimination.
The government’s transitional arrangements for pensions were ruled discriminatory by the Court of Appeal last December.
The government applied for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court refused the application because it does not raise an arguable point of law.
In addition, the government was ordered to pay the costs of the case.
At the time, the FBU made the point that ‘The landmark legal case will likely impact on all public sector workers. The FBU is the only organisation in the fire and rescue service to take on this legal battle.’
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: ‘This is a hard-fought victory for the union and more importantly for our members.
‘This ruling proves that the government has discriminated against thousands of younger firefighters. They must now rectify the damage they unnecessarily caused.
‘The overwhelming message from this fight is that unity is strength. When workers unite we can take on the bosses and the government, and we can win. This is not the end. We will continue to fight for pension justice across the board. The FBU will always fight for our members.’
The BMA has now followed the lead of the firefighters.
BMA chair of council Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘Although doctors’ pension schemes are different, the BMA believes the underlying legal principles are essentially the same and we want to bring a challenge on behalf of the UK’s younger doctors regarding the legality of the 2015 NHS Pension Scheme.
‘In March of this year, the BMA wrote to the Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock warning him of the intention to take legal action.
‘Letters were also sent to the Scottish and Northern Ireland Governments on behalf of members in those nations. We have made our intention and position very clear and we expect to support many more doctors in the coming month.’
In 2015, the NHS closed two Sections of the NHS Pension Scheme, moving many NHS staff onto a newer 2015 scheme with less valuable retirement benefits.
However, it also allowed some older doctors to stay on the previous schemes until they either retired or they moved to the new scheme at the end of a fixed transition period.
The BMA alleges that the failure to allow younger doctors to benefit from these transitions constitutes unlawful age discrimination.
Now that the government’s appeal against the FBU has has failed, the BMA wants the government to agree that the 2015 NHS Pension Scheme does unlawfully discriminate against its younger members.
The BMA demands the government scrap the scheme so that doctors are not adversely affected by it in later years.