You remember some days more than others….

by | May 2, 2023 | Pension History

On 17th May 1990, the European Court of Justice handed down its judgement in the celebrated case of Barber v Guardian Royal Exchange. Mr Barber had been dismissed at age 52 and awarded a deferred pension at Normal Retirement Date, age 62. He complained that in the same circumstances a woman would have been entitled to an immediate pension.

The ECJ decided that the right to equal pay for men and women under European law included occupational pensions, and accordingly retirement conditions had to be equalised.  The ECJ also held that service before 17 May 1990 could not be relied on to claim an equalised pension, but benefits in respect of service after that date had to be levelled up until pensions were equalised- the so-called Barber window. Lawyers differed on the impact of the decision and actuaries worried about the cost.

In its 1992 Annual Report, the ACA reported on a ‘lively’ seminar which had been held to discuss European developments. A representative of the EU Commission, discussing a proposed Pensions Directive, suggested that in some ways the UK pensions system was inferior to those elsewhere.  And a leading pensions lawyer proposed a test case so that the European Court could answer questions ranging from the possibility that the Barber decision applied even before the UK had joined the EEC, to a detailed exploration of the UK Equal Pay Act. Some things never change.

Pensions Archive Trust Director, Jane Marshall

This article was first published in the May 2023 edition of Pensions Age magazine