New judgment from Europe on the Spanish pension system. After the setback that meant that the maternity supplement was considered discriminatory, on this occasion the Court of Justice of the European Union (TUE) endorses the national regulations that require a minimum amount in the pension to be able to access an early retirement. Although this requirement mainly harms women, as they are the majority in the domestic sector, it does not consider that it constitutes “discrimination based directly on sex, since it applies without distinction to male and female workers”, according to the ruling made public this Thursday.
The Social Security law establishes that in order for a worker affiliated to the General Scheme to be able to retire early voluntarily, he must meet the requirement that the amount of this pension is, at least, equal to the amount of the legal minimum pension that it would correspond to that worker upon reaching the age of 65. “This provision avoids having to pay a supplement to the pension that would impose a burden on the national budget,” as explained by the Luxembourg-based Court, which considers that this rule is in line with the objectives of the European Union in terms of pensions, which consist of “achieving a sustainable balance between the duration of professional life and the duration of retirement, taking into account, in particular, the evolution of life expectancy, in order to guarantee the adequacy and viability of retirement systems”.
Moreover, it considers that the possibility of a worker voluntarily advancing the retirement age without any reduction in the amount of his pension, thanks to the receipt of a supplement, would be incompatible with the trend to increase the retirement age and reinforce incentives to prolong the active life promoted by the European Union. In addition, it points out that this requirement is not required when early retirement is associated with a cause beyond the control of the worker, such as a business restructuring.
The TUE thus responds to the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia, which had asked it a preliminary ruling before ruling on a case that confronts a worker with the National Institute of Social Security (INSS). The plaintiff, after having always contributed to the old Special Scheme for Domestic Service, currently the Special System for Household Employees, requested a voluntary early retirement pension from the moment she turned 63, which was denied because the amount of The benefit that you would receive is less than the amount of the minimum pension that would correspond to you when you turn 65.
The woman filed a lawsuit with Court number 10 of Barcelona, which agreed with her, understanding that the criteria followed by the INSS constitutes direct discrimination against women, who occupy most of the jobs in the sector of employees of the home, something that Europe now refutes, although it urges the High Court of Catalonia to verify that this consequence “is justified by legitimate objectives of social policy unrelated to any discrimination based on sex.”
In any event, the judgment recalls that, “although budgetary considerations cannot justify discrimination to the detriment of one of the sexes, on the other hand, given the wide margin of appreciation available to the Member States, consistent objectives in ensuring the sustainable financing of retirement pensions, legitimate objectives of social policy can be considered that are unrelated to any discrimination based on sex ”.
For this reason, the European Justice considers that the objectives argued by the Spanish Government “can, in principle, justify a possible difference in treatment to the detriment of female workers that results indirectly from the application of the disputed rule.” Likewise, it considers that «a national regulation of this type is apt to achieve these objectives, does not go beyond what is necessary to achieve them and is applied in a coherent and systematic way, since it applies to all workers affiliated to the general regime of the Spanish Social Security ».