Updated Bar Council guidance on part-time judges and pensions

24 April 2013

Many members of the Bar undertake public duties as recorders or part-time judges sitting in a wide range of jurisdictions. They are almost always fee-paid rather than salaried.

Over many years, they have been treated differently for pensions purposes than salaried judges who undertake identical work.

In the case, O'Brien v. Ministry of Justice (MoJ), the Supreme Court (following a reference to the European Court of Justice) ruled, in July 2012, that a recorder is a "worker", for the purposes of the Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 (implementing EU Directive 97/81/EC). Following a further hearing in November 2012, in February 2013 the Supreme Court rejected the MoJ's defence that its refusal to pay pensions to recorders was objectively justified. This is likely to open the door to claims by part-time judges sitting in any capacity (such as a tribunal judge) to receive pensions in the future and, in respect of past service, to receive compensation for the MOJ's refusal to pay pensions to part-time judges.

The Bar Council has sought advice on how part-time judges may protect their position and a note on this is available to read here. The Bar Council is unable to provide individual legal advice, and passes on this information simply for the convenience of its members.