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Sex discrimination: Equality required in occupational pensions

In practical terms for UK employers, the recent decision in Barber v Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance Group is probably the most momentous decision ever to emanate from the European Court of Justice. The Court holds that occupational pensions payable under a contracted-out scheme constitute "pay" under Article 119 of the Treaty of Rome, and so must be offered to men and women on equal terms. Therefore, any disparity in the age at which the pension becomes payable is unlawful. Given that Article 119 is directly enforceable in UK courts and tribunals, any such discrimination is immediately open to challenge. However, the Court limits the impact of its decision, by declaring that it will not have retrospective effect.