Local Government Pension Scheme

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2007 Special Local Government Conference
2 March 2007

This Conference congratulates the Local Government Service Group Executive on the work it has undertaken to protect local government workers pensions. We especially applaud the work of the UNISON negotiating team for their diligence in ensuring, wherever possible, equality for all participants.

Our pension’s campaign is also concerned with the rights of disabled people; disabled people suffer pay inequality during their working lives and this continues to impact upon them in their retirement. The government has stated its commitment towards ensuring the Scheme offers an equality proofed pensions framework for all its increasingly diverse and part time workforce. We believe the government has failed to recognise the desperately poor pension situation faced by disabled people.

Those disabled people who have managed to stay in work, made contributions towards income during older age through their pension will struggle to sustain employment in later years. We anticipate employers continued failure to invest will inevitably lead to disabled workers getting caught up in a web of reduced rights at work and outside of work. Reduced working hours and related pay, systematic discrimination in capability procedures and the absence of strategic deployment of reasonable adjustments will force disabled people into relative early retirement and accelerate the onset of poverty.

The New Disability Duty (DDA 2005) requires public authorities to examine all their functions (including pension schemes) to ensure that they do not discriminate unlawfully.

Government estimates recognise 20% of the working age population as disabled people. During the 1980’s many public service employers adopted positive action programmes to support disabled people’s employment opportunities and public service employers, particularly local government still hold a relatively good record compared with the private sector. However research findings from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (Dec 05) show that three out of ten disabled adults of working age are living in poverty in Britain , a higher proportion than a decade ago and double the rate among non-disabled adults. Disabled adults are now more likely to be live in poor households than either pensioners or children.

We know that disabled people experience discrimination at work because of physical and attitudinal barriers and that they generally earn much less than non-disabled people. The may have broken work patterns due to discrimination in redundancy and grievance and disciplinary procedures. They may also have a broken work pattern due to time off for impairment related absences, hostile managerial and working environments, unmet access requirements, reported and unreported harassment, and the inappropriate imposition of capability procedures. Many disabled people who find the inflexibility of standard job design and the hostility they face at work too problematic to challenge or endure are forced into self-employment or unemployment.

Work absences can lead to gaps in pension contribution and even greater poverty in post retirement years. Whilst disabled people working in local government should have support form the Government’s Access to Work Scheme employers use Best Value arguments to neglect their responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act to make reasonable adjustments.

1Government funding to remove barriers to work through its Access to Work Scheme is not available for those beyond 65 years of age and employers are reluctant to meet the cost of adjustments directly

2Disabled people often have reduced working hours and income from having to move full to part time work because of deteriorated impairment or condition and where a higher level of barrier removal is not provided

Conference is deeply concerned at the current proposed arrangements for Ill Health Retirement (IHR). These arrangements do not appear to take into account the dignity or equality of disabled members of the LGPS inasmuch that the employers will be allowed to decide what constitutes gainful employment.

This Conference calls upon the Local Government Service Group Executive to;

a Ensure that the new look LGPS scheme regulations are equality impact assessed to be compliant with the Disability Equality Duty.

bEncourage branches to negotiate paid Disability Leave agreements so that disabled workers can continue to be economically active and maintain their pension contributions.

cSeek clarification on the intention of the new rules for IHR and seek an amendment to them that recognises the rights of disabled employees under the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 and the Disability Equality Duty that this Act imposes on public sector employers.