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Claims of pension discrimination against the Federation found proven

The Police Federation has been found to have discriminated against and victimised members who had previously made claims against the government over the transitional pension protection arrangements.

The Police Federation created division towards claimants pursuing the Police Pensions Claim and later “chose to disregard the obvious signs that it was likely to find itself on the wrong side of the argument”, an employment tribunal has found.

A judgement has been issued this week following legal action, led by Leigh Day Solicitors, against the PFEW over their response regarding transitional protections on pensions brought in in 2015.

9,989 individuals lodged claims of age discrimination against the organisation following a finding that the transitional protections themselves were found to be discriminatory. Eight claimant witnesses gave evidence.

PC Lee Broadbent, former GMP Fed Chair, told Police Oracle: “Just reading through the comments on social media - for a lot of people this judgement is more significant for them that the original pension judgement.

“You can have an understanding that the government wanted to test the legal boundaries and that they were making these pension changes for what would be legitimate policy reasons in trying to reduce the pension costs to the public [although] they went about in a completely abhorrent way and directly discriminated.

“What's difficult to understand in this judgement, or at least what a lot of people are saying, is you should have been able to rely upon the support of the only organisation enshrined in law to protect your rights and interests.

“Unlike any other employee in the public sector or private sector – police officers have no choice as to who represents them. The only representative body we’ve got to rely on is the Federation so it’s just a huge betrayal of trust and confidence.”

The judgement highlighted that the Fed carried out no financial modelling to assess the impact on officers of different ages, did not carry out an equality impact assessment, nor pressed the government for one, and that General Secretary Ian Rennie had a “firm view” of the approach to take and was “not minded to involve the membership”.

The was only one instance where members were given the chance to vote on a pensions issue – and that was by an “indicative” show of hands at a National Council meeting in July 2019.

It further specified: “There was, it appears to us, a democratic deficit within the organisation. Mr Broadbent observed, not unfairly in our view: ‘[the Respondent] had a pattern of treating members like mushrooms, namely kept in the dark and fed manure.’”

Moreover, the judgement pointed out that an overwhelming majority of the Fed leadership appears to have belonged to the protected group – adding that it was “striking” they did not raise any objection to them under May 2020 but actively championed them for the best part of eight years.

Further concerning comments were made around creation or fostering of division and ill-feeling towards those joining the PPC. “Extensive and unchallenged” evidence had been provided of hostility.

PFEW “knew” that tactics including exaggerating the risks of success in the PPC for protected officers, omitting relevant information and referring to those who had signed up as marginal and/or selfish, would contribute to the situation.

PC Broadbent himself told Police Oracle that when he had tried to make change from within, he was met with hostility, was belittled and isolated.

He added: “In that regard, it is difficult to see how the very people that have been involved in this for eight years - that have worked their way up through the organisation from being local board members to executives on the national board - it’s very difficult to see or accept that they're the right people to move the Federation forward. I personally don't know what the Federation can do in order to regain trust.”

Two areas of the claims did not succeed – one was relating to the use of members funds in relation to Fed’s own action launched in May 2020 (the funds came from a single pot of money used in respect of all members), the second was in relation to indirect discrimination (it was determined direct and indirect discrimination cannot be effected by the same policy decision).  

With regards to compensation, Police Oracle understands that if there is not a settlement then the case will return to Tribunal to organise compensation for all claimants.

PC Broadbent explained: “Statements will be taken from a range of claimants who will express and give evidence as to how the Federation’s actions have impacted on them personally and it will be for the court to determine the level of compensation.”

On Wednesday, the Federation released a statement saying that the judgement makes for “very difficult reading” for the organisation.

Signed by Chair Steve Hartshorn and National Secretary Calum Macleod, it read: “We would like to assure the membership that PFEW’s National Board and National Council take the Employment Tribunal’s comments and judgement very seriously. We will reflect on it, affording it the necessary and thorough review that it deserves. Earlier today, the National Board and National Council met to begin that process.

“We will comment on and respond to the judgment fully in due course.”

 For PC Broadbent: “You only have to look around you turn the landscape of police at the minute to understand that police officers need a strong voice [to represent them].

“What we're left with here now is an absolute void the Federation's credibility in absolute tatters not only internally but externally stakeholders such as the Home Office, IOPC will see the absolute disarray the organisation is in and it could potentially damage and undermine police officer standing on a number of issues.

“It’s difficult entering another negotiation say with the government or the Home Office on pay if you can’t command the support of your membership.”

Similar claims against the Scottish Police Federation have been put on hold while a judgment was made in relation to the PFEW claims.

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