Case - Preston & Ors v. Wolverhampton Healthcare NHS Trust & Ors, Fletcher & Ors v. Midland Bank (HoL No.1)

[1998] 1 WLR 280 : [1998] 1 All ER 528 : [1998] Eu LR 631 : [1998] ICR 227 : [1998] IRLR 197, House of Lords - Jane McNeill QC, Melanie Tether

Sex discrimination alleged by part-time workers in an appeal against dismissal of their claim to a right to participate in the employer's occupational pension schemes.

Appeals against the decision of the Court of Appeal in dismissing appeals by female employees and one male's cross-appeal, against the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal concerning the exclusion of part-time and retired part-time workers in the public and private sectors from joining occupational pension schemes where the qualifying conditions of membership were based on the number of hours worked each week. All the appellants claimed access to membership and recovery of employers' contributions and based their claims on the ECJ decision in Vroege v NCIV Instituut voor Volkshuivesting BV and Another Case C-57/93 : Fisscher v Voorhuis Hengelo BV and Another Case C-57/93 (1994) ECR 1-451 but had been defeated primarily because they were out of time under domestic law, namely s.2 Equal Pay Act 1970.
HELD: The appeals would be referred to the European Court of Justice for preliminary rulings under Art.177 EC Treaty as to the following questions: (1) whether "employment" in s.2(4) Equal Pay Act 1970 should refer to part-time employment under a series of contracts or to the contract in respect of which complaint was made rather than the whole series of contracts; (2) whether the six-month time limit in s.2(3) and the two-year limitation in s.2(5) were compatible with EC law principles which required that obstacles should not be made impeding or totally obstructing claimants from exercising their rights under Art.119 of the EC Treaty and must not be less favourable than those applicable to similar domestic claims.

Judgment accordingly.

For the subsequent European Court of Justice opinion, see Preston and Ors v Wolverhampton Healthcare Trust and Ors : Fletcher and Ors v Midland Bank Plc (2000) Times, May 19, 2000.

For the subsequent House of Lords decision based on the above ECJ opinion, see Preston and Ors v Wolverhampton Healthcare NHS Trust and Ors : Fletcher and Ors v Midland Bank Plc (2001) Times, February 9, 2001


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