Police bosses sued over pension switch

(Kris Miller, Courier, DC Thomson)
(Kris Miller, Courier, DC Thomson)

HUNDREDS of disgruntled police officers have launched legal action against Police Scotland over their new pensions.

Changes to the pension scheme in 2014 resulted in Scottish officers contributing more of their salary towards retirement.

Traditionally, police officers had one of the most lucrative pension schemes in the country, with many able to retire on two-thirds of their final salary after 30 years’ service.

That meant some officers were able to retire at just 50 with an annual pension higher than the average UK wage of £27,000-a-year.

But the change means officers have to work longer, pay more into their pension fund, and will receive a final pension pot greatly reduced in value.

Hundreds of officers have lodged employment tribunals against Police Scotland over the changes.

The hearings are expected to be heard in Glasgow in the coming months.

Many of the 1024 officers bringing action against their employer claim the change, which impacts on younger officers more, is tantamount to age discrimination.

And because younger officers are more likely to be female and from different races, some of the claims are also being fought on sex and race discrimination grounds.

It follows other emergency services pursuing similar action over pension reform.

Firefighters, backed by the Fire Brigade Union, have just lost several employment tribunals in England on similar grounds.

The union is deciding whether to appeal the decision.

Scottish police officers will not enjoy the backing of the Scottish Police Federation in their action.

A spokesman for the organisation, which represents most of Police Scotland’s rank and file officers, refused to comment.

The cases are being fought by London-based law firm Leigh Day, which has previously fought campaigns for consumer rights and brought multi-million-pound claims against global tobacco and oil companies.

A spokeswoman for the firm said it had lodged approximately 8000 claims across the UK for affected police officers with 1024 from Scotland’s 17,000 officers and expects to raise more shortly.

She said: “We are very confident we can succeed in these cases.

“We don’t think the Fire Brigade cases are particularly relevant to the police officer claims.

“We didn’t represent the firefighters and think Scottish police officers have a stronger chance of success.

“We represented judges who won a similar case earlier this year.”

A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: “Police Scotland is aware ‘parallel’ employment tribunal claims are brought against a number of police forces in England and Wales, and is currently awaiting the outcome of those other claims before it determines its own position.”

Police pensions are devolved to the Scottish Government and, should the officers win, Holyrood would have to draft new regulations.