Equalisation and Barber—the pension implications
Produced in partnership with Elizabeth Ovey of Radcliffe Chambers
Equalisation and Barber—the pension implications

The following Pensions guidance note Produced in partnership with Elizabeth Ovey of Radcliffe Chambers provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Equalisation and Barber—the pension implications
  • The basic principles under European law
  • The basic problem
  • From what date does Barber have to be applied?
  • Practical challenges of equalisation
  • Consequences of equalisation
  • Equalisation cases—further implications
  • Practical consequences
  • Brexit

The basic principles under European law

Under European law, pensions paid under the terms of a private occupational pension scheme are deferred remuneration. The principle that men and women are entitled to equal pay for equal work or work of equal value, set out in art 157 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (originally art 119 of the Treaty of Rome), therefore applies to that part of their remuneration which consists of pension benefits as it does to any other part of their pay. This was decided by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), now the Court of Justice of the European Communities (CJEU), in the Barber case.

At the same time, the ECJ decided that art 119 has direct effect in relation to occupational pension schemes. This means that, as far as possible, schemes must be operated in such a way as to give effect to the rights established by Barber. In practice, this has often required schemes’ governing documentation to be amended to equalise pension benefits, something which has not proved straightforward.

The basic problem

For many years, the United Kingdom state pension scheme set a retirement age of 65 for men and 60 for women. This was mirrored in many occupational pension schemes. Mr Barber himself was a member of a scheme