EU Court Calls Out Pension Calculation as Unfair to Women

(CN) — Spain’s practice of calculating retirement pensions for part-time work could leave the country on the hook for sex discrimination, the European Court of Justice ruled Wednesday.

The case before the court’s Third Chamber in Luxembourg stems from the retirement of Violeta Villar Láiz. After taking into account that Villar Láiz had worked part-time for the greater part of her career, Spain’s National Institute of Social Security calculated her pension in 2016 by multiplying the basic amount and a factor of 53%. Villar Láiz lobbied for a factor of 80.04%, saying her periods of part-time work should be treated in the same manner as periods of full-time work, but both the NISS and an employment tribunal in Valladolid, Spain, turned her down. 

Later the same tribunal dismissed the claim by Villar Láiz that the difference in treatment gave rise to indirect sex discrimination, since women represent the majortity of part-time workers.

The High Court of Justice of Castile and León, Spain, is considering her appeal but asked the European Court of Justice to advise it on whether Spain’s scheme contravenes EU law.

For its ruling, the Third Chamber noted that it considered statistical evidence that shows 75% of part-time workers in Spain for the first quarter of 2017 were women.

Spain failed to distract from this number by pointing out that women accounted for 60% of the “total number of retirement pension cases successfully dealt with by the INSS in the period between 2014 and 2017, in which periods of part-time work and part-time contributions were taken into consideration by taking account of the overall rate of part-time work.”

“It follows that the workers on short part-time contracts are placed at a disadvantage because of the application of that reduction factor,” the court added.

The ruling goes on to say that it is for Spain’s High Court “to determine whether that statistical evidence is valid, representative and significant.”

“If the referring court, on the basis of the statistical evidence produced and, as the case may be, other relevant information, were to come to the conclusion that the national legislation at issue in the main proceedings places women at a particular disadvantage as compared with men, such legislation would be contrary to Article 4(1) of Directive 79/7, unless it were justified by objective factors unrelated to any discrimination on grounds of sex,” the ruling states.

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