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UK: Discrimination arising from disability: advantageous treatment is not unfavourable, even though it could have been more advantageous

Mr Williams (W) had a disability and, to help him cope with his condition, the University agreed to reduce his hours by half as a reasonable adjustment. His pay was reduced accordingly. After his condition deteriorated further, he took ill-health retirement. He was entitled to an enhanced pension that was based on his final salary at the time of his retirement.

The Supreme Court ruled that W had not been unfavourably treated because of something arising in consequence of his disability when his ill-health early retirement pension was calculated on the basis of his part-time salary, rather than his full-time salary.

The Court said there are two questions of fact to consider:

  • What was the relevant treatment?
  • Was that treatment unfavourable to the individual?

Here, the relevant treatment was the award of an enhanced pension, and that did not amount to unfavourable treatment.

The Court noted that in most cases, advantageous treatment cannot be unfavourable – even though it could be more advantageous.

When considering whether the treatment was unfavourable, the Court did not decide whether the correct test is objective, or a mix of subjective and objective – but said that the threshold for establishing whether the treatment is unfavourable to the individual is relatively low.

Williams v Trustees of Swansea University Pension and Assurance Scheme