Age-related contribution rates to an occupational pension scheme can be objectively justified

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A recent decision from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) looked at whether or not the practice of age-related contribution levels in an occupational pension scheme would be prohibited on the grounds of being unlawful age discrimination. The decision in HK Danmark v Experian A/S [2013] EUECJ C- 476/11 provided some comfort for employers and trustees, as the CJEU found that the practice was capable of being objectively justified.

However, in looking at their own pension practices, employers and trustees will still need to consider whether or not it falls within a particular exemption, or if not whether or not a particular practice is objectively justified in fact and in relation to their own particular scheme and circumstances.

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination against an individual based on his or her age. However, there are a number of statutory exemptions in the UK that apply to this overriding principle. Logically, a number of those exemptions apply to the administration and rules relating to pension schemes. That makes total sense: age is inherent and pervasive to the very concept of providing a pension, which is primarily an ‘old-age benefit’…

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