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'unfavourable' treatment defined in disability discrimination cases

18 December 2018

The Supreme Court has held that 'unfavourable' treatment is not the same as a 'detriment' for the purpose of considering a claim for discrimination arising from a disability.

The claimant in Williams v Trustees of Swansea University Pension and Assurance Scheme was entitled to a final salary pension when he took early retirement due to disability. Because his hours had been reduced as a result of reasonable adjustments, his pension was based on this reduced salary. The claimant claimed that this amounted to discrimination arising from his disability.

Tribunal agreed with the claimant. However, the Supreme Court held that, as final salary pension was only available for early retirement which was related to disability, paying the claimant at a reduced rate was not unfavourable treatment. The early payment of a pension represented advantageous treatment. The fact that it was not as advantageous as the treatment other disabled people might have received did not make it unfavourable. The Supreme Court held that the Tribunal had equated unfavourable treatment with detriment, and that this was incorrect.

This case highlights the distinction between unfavourable treatment and detriment. When defending disability discrimination claims, it is important to identify the right test.

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