Hope for pension top-ups

January 4, 2008

Retired academics who have taken career breaks or time off for childcare may have a case against their universities if they were not told about a scheme for buying back their lost pension contributions.

A recent employment appeals tribunal case confirmed that institutions have a duty to ensure that employees know about the benefits available to them.

Henrietta Dombey was an employee of Brighton University and a member of the Teachers Pension Scheme (TPS) for most of her career. During two separate periods, she worked part time and stopped paying into the TPS.

Brighton, in common with other universities, operates a scheme known as PAY.

This allows employees who have "lost" pensionable years because they did not contribute for a period or because their TPS membership lapsed to top up their contributions and buy back the lost years.

Professor Dombey said she was not told about the scheme by Brighton. She argued that the university had a duty to inform her about it and her right to apply under it.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal accepted this argument in principle and referred her case back to a tribunal to consider whether a payment should be made to Professor Dombey.

John McMullen, a partner at the law firm Watson Burton, said: "It is hard to imagine that there are no other academics who would be affected by this."

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