Nurse unaware of pension entitlement

Posted: 24th March 2014

NHSA part-time nurse who sought substantial compensation for the loss of almost 20 years' worth of pension rights has failed to convince the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) that her employer did not take reasonable steps to draw her attention to her entitlement to opt into the NHS pension scheme.

Between 1991 and 2010, it had been open to the nurse to participate in the scheme but she had not done so. She argued successfully before an Employment Tribunal (ET) at first instance that her employer, an NHS Trust, was under an implied contractual obligation to notify her of her right to take part in the scheme.

However, the ET rejected her claim after finding that the Trust had taken reasonable steps to publicise the relevant changes in pension rules to its more than 5,000 staff by placing posters on staff noticeboards and by stapling leaflets to employees’ payslip envelopes.

It was not disputed that the nurse had been genuinely unaware of her eligibility to join the scheme. She said that her husband had hoarded all her payslips, none of which showed any signs of a leaflet having been attached.  She had not seen the notices as she frequently worked away from the hospital premises.

Dismissing her appeal, the EAT found that the Trust had taken adequate steps to alert its staff to the changes in the rules. Although a small number of part-time staff had complained of not receiving the leaflet, the method used by the Trust to communicate with its employees – although it was ‘not perfect’ and ‘could have been more efficient’ – was honoured by time and reasonable.