Instantie: EHRM, 12 april 2006




The applicants, all United Kingdom nationals, complain about sex-based differences in eligibility for reduced earnings allowance (REA) and retirement allowance (RA), which are earnings-related benefits payable to employed or formerly employed people who have suffered an impairment of earning capacity from a work-related injury or disease.Before 1986 there was a continued right to REA after retirement, which was payable concurrently with the State pension. From 1986 a succession of legislative measures attempted to remove or reduce the REA being received by claimants no longer of working age, by imposing cut-off or limiting conditions at 65 for men and 60 for women. These are the ages used by the statutory old-age pension scheme.

Differential pensionable ages were first introduced for men and women in the UK in 1940. In order to bring male and female pensionable age into line with each other, the Pensions Act 1995 provides for the pensionable age of women born between 6 April 1950 and 5 April 1955 to increase progressively. With effect from 2010, the pensionable age of men and women in the United Kingdom will begin to equalise, and by 2020 both sexes will attain pensionable age at 65.

The applicants complained that they suffered sex discrimination as a result of changes to the REA scheme linking it to State pensionable age. They all relied on Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) to the Convention, combined with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination).The Court considered that both the United Kingdom Government’s policy decision to stop paying REA to those who would otherwise have retired from paid employment, and the decision to achieve that aim by linking the cut-off age for REA to the notional “end of working life”, or State pensionable age, pursued a legitimate aim and were reasonably and objectively justified.It remained to be examined whether or not the underlying difference in treatment between men women in the State pension scheme was acceptable under Article 14. The Court found that the difference in State pensionable age between men (65) and women (60) in the United Kingdom was originally intended to correct the disadvantaged economic position of women. It continued to be reasonably and objectively justified on that ground until such time that social and economic changes removed the need for special treatment for women. Due to the Court, the United Kingdom Government’s decisions as to the precise timing and means of putting right the inequality were not manifestly unreasonable. Similarly, the decision to link eligibility for REA to the pension system was reasonably and objectively justified, given that the benefit was intended to compensate for reduced earning capacity during a person’s working life. There had not, therefore, been a violation of Article 14 taken in conjunction with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.Judge Borrego-Borrego expressed a concurring opinion and Judge Loucaides expressed a dissenting opinion which are annexed to the judgment.

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