In 2015 all Northern Ireland Public Sector Pension Schemes were reformed and new career average schemes were introduced. These reforms also saw the introduction of transitional protection that meant those members within 10 years of their normal pension age could remain in the legacy schemes for a tapered period.
In 2018, the Court of Appeal found that this was discriminatory on the basis of age. Since then, the Government has taken steps to remedy the discrimination for affected public service pension scheme members. The policy to remove the effect of the transitional protections, seen between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2022, has become known as the 2015 Remedy or the ‘McCloud’ judgment. It was the transitional protection elements of the reforms that were found to be discriminatory, not the reformed schemes themselves.
The Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Act 2022 legislates for how the government will remove the discrimination identified by the courts in the way that the 2015 reforms were introduced for some members. The 2015 remedy is made up of two phases. Phase one was completed last year with all active members becoming members of the new pension scheme ‘alpha’ from 1 April 2022, irrespective of age. This officially marked the end of the age discrimination identified in the 2018 court judgment (the McCloud case) with the introduction of a single, Northern Ireland Civil Service Pension Scheme for all active members from 1 April 2022. Phase two will remove the discrimination by allowing affected members the choice between their legacy scheme or 2015 reformed scheme for the 7 year remedy period (1 April 2015 to 31 March 2022). For eligible members who already have a pension in payment a choice will be offered as soon as is reasonably practicable after 1 October 2023.
Earlier this year, the Department of Finance consulted on how phase two will be implemented to remove the effect of the transitional protections seen between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2022, the remedy period, and implement provisions for a deferred choice underpin (DCU). The consultation document set out how the regulations will work in practice, explained the remedy choices that eligible members will have, and how these will work. It is important to note that members do not need to make any remedy choices on their personal circumstances at this stage.