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Telegraph forced to include part-time employee in pension

23 November 2010

The UK Pension Ombudsman has rejected and overruled the Telegraph Media Group's decision to exclude a former part-time employee from its company pension scheme.

Ten years ago, Glyn Roberts, an NUJ member who was working part-time without a formal written contract, wrote to the night editor of The Sunday Telegraph. He said he understood that a new law prescribed equal benefits for part-time and full-time workers. He asked the newspaper for the same pay, pension, sick pay and holiday rights as full-time staff at the Telegraph group.

A long dispute with the company followed, in which the company claimed Glyn Roberts was an as-and-when-required casual worker, without such rights, despite the fact that he had been asked to work every week and his name was clearly listed on a weekly rota. From January 1997, Glyn had worked every Saturday as a sub-editor for The Sunday Telegraph and this employment arrangement lasted for over a decade and until he gave formal notice to leave the Telegraph in the spring of 2008.

At several points, Telegraph managers said the company was considering issuing special contracts to "regular casuals", providing extra rights and benefits. But these contracts never materialised. Glyn Roberts took the case to an employment tribunal in 2006 and the tribunal declared him to be a part-time employee, under the Employment Rights Act (rather than a "casual worker"). After this decision, he applied again for active membership of the Telegraph Staff Pension Plan.

The company managers still rejected his application, claiming that they were able to do this under the pension plan rules, as they still regarded him as "a casual worker for the purposes of the Telegraph Staff Pension Plan". The pension trustees accepted the company's decision.

The NUJ has backed Glyn Roberts and took the case to the Pension Ombudsman, who overruled the company decision and instructed the Telegraph group to allow Glyn Roberts into the pension plan from 2001, when a rule change dropped the minimum number of hours per week required to be worked for membership of the scheme.

Glyn Roberts said:

"I'm delighted at this ruling. It is a just decision, as I worked for many years for The Sunday Telegraph as a regular employee, and saw no reason why the company should exclude me from its pension plan while other employees were allowed to join.
"I am extremely grateful to the NUJ, who funded the legal challenge, and to Thompsons solicitors and our barrister in the case, Michael Ford.
"I could never have won this case without the union's backing, and I hope the result can be of benefit to other people who work regularly for companies but are denied equal rights."

Zohra Francis, Thompsons' solicitor, said:

"The ombudsman has pointed out the absurdity of the Telegraph treating Mr Roberts as an employee in all respects save entitlement to join the pension plan. We are pleased that Mr Roberts has now been able to pay backdated contributions into the plan and the Telegraph has done the same."

Barry Fitzpatrick, Head of Publishing at the NUJ, said:

"The Ombudsman decision is a step forward for workers who should be entitled to a pension. We hope that the ruling will be applicable to other journalists and we want Glyn's determination to benefit others.
"As the only union for journalists and media workers in the UK we are in a unique position to give advice, guidance and support on all employment issues.
"The NUJ is always prepared to fight against injustices that impact on our members' working lives. We are hopeful that this decision will mean the NUJ is able to help more part-time or casual employees get a fair pension."

Tags: , glyn roberts, telegraph media group, pensions, thompsons solicitors, part-time employees, telegraph, pensions ombudsman, false freelance, newspapers