Taylor v. United Kingdom, Case C-382/98 Cited as:  EHRLR 90
Reference to the European Court of Justice under Article 177 of the European Community (EC) Treaty (now Article 234 EC) by the High Court for a preliminary ruling. Interpretation of Articles 3 and 7(1)(a) of Council Directive 79/7/EEC of 19 December 1978 on the progressive implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women in matters of social security (OJ 1979 L 6, p. 24); unlawful sex discrimination.
Regulations entitled those on social security benefits to receipt of a winter fuel payment for. The payment was available to women aged 60 and over and men aged 65 and over. Mr Taylor was 62 and brought a complaint on the basis that the regulation did not comply with the European Union Council Directive on the progressive implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women in matters of social security. The High Court referred the interpretation of the Directive to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
The ECJ stressed that the application of different ages, according to sex, to a benefit scheme other than the old-age and retirement pension scheme can be justified only if the discrimination to which the difference in age gives rise is objectively necessary in order, amongst other things, to ensure consistency between the retirement pension scheme and the other benefit scheme. According to the Government, if the benefit at issue was regarded as designed to provide protection against the risk of old age, it would not be consistent to choose an age other than that applicable to payment of the State retirement pension (which specifically meets the risk of old age). However, the Court found that if, as was the case here, the benefit is designed to provide protection against the risk of old age and must, therefore, be paid only to those above a certain age, it does not follow that that age must necessarily coincide with the statutory age of retirement. Thus, such discriminatory treatment was not necessarily linked to the difference in the statutory age of retirement for men and women and was not covered by the derogation in the Directive permitting Member States to exclude the determination of pensionable age for the purposes of granting old-age and retirement pensions from the Directive. Therefore, Mr. Taylor had been the victim of unlawful sex discrimination.
Keywords: Taylor v. United Kingdom, Case C-382/98 Cited as:  EHRLR 90, Equality, Nondiscrimination
After the ECJ decision, the UK government announced that it would make full Winter Fuel Payments to men aged over 60, including back payments to those who were over 60 when the 1998 regulations first came into effect (see Department of Social Services Press Release 99/321 of 16th Dec 1999). Opposition parties claimed the government was not alerting pensioners to their entitlements but the Government responded it had run a concerted information campaign (Source: The Independent, 2 January 2002).
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The case demonstrates how discrimination norms can be litigated in the social and economic sphere. It also shows how the European Court of Justice can be utilized to advance human rights as that body's directives increasingly address human rights concerns.