A disabled worker taking ill health retirement was treated more favourably than non-disabled workers, but less favourably than someone who had not reduced their hours due to disability.
In Williams v Trustees of Swansea University Pension & Assurance Scheme (www.supremecourt.uk), the claimant received an enhanced pension because he was no longer able to work due to ill health.
However he had previously reduced his hours due to disability. He argued that to base his enhanced pension on the reduced hours was unfavourable treatment contrary to s.15 EqA, subject to the justification defence. He also pointed out that a person who suddenly acquired a disability, eg due to a heart attack or stroke, would have been entitled to this higher enhanced pension in contrast with a person such as himself whose disability worsened over time.
The Supreme Court held this was not unfavourable treatment, so s.15 EqA did not apply. The ‘treatment’ was the award of pension, and there was nothing intrinsically unfavourable or disadvantageous about that. If he had been able to work full-time, he would have received no pension at that time.
Awarding a pension of that amount was not in any sense ‘unfavourable’ nor (applying the approach of the Employment Code) could it reasonably be so regarded.