EUROPE - Germany's largest pension fund (BVV) has decided to introduce "unisex tariffs" for its participants in light of a gender discrimination ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last year.

In March 2011, the ECJ ruled that, from December 2012, any insurance-based pensions contract must be calculated on a unisex basis - notwithstanding gender differences in life expectancy.

At present, the ruling applies only to private and voluntary insurance and pension provision.

However, the BVV - the pension fund for Germany's financial industry - said in its annual report that it, "like other experts", believed the court would eventually apply the rule to occupational pension systems as well.

It also speculated that German authorities might pre-empt a future ECJ ruling on occupational-pension gender discrimination by including the country's second pillar in its implementation of the court's 2011 decision.

It said it would therefore recalculate tariffs where it was not already using unisex assumptions.

It also announced that some contract renewals, such as the continuation of a contract under a different employer, would now be regarded as a new contract and therefore be adapted to the new tariff structures.

To compensate members for these adjustments, the BVV will increase the guarantee on pension payments from five years to 15, even after the death of the beneficiary.

In January, the European Commission clarified that the ECJ ruling issued in March of last year did not cover occupational pensions, and that it would apply only to new contracts.

However, industry experts such as Andreas Buttler, managing director at febs consulting, have questioned whether it would be "justifiable from 2013 onwards to offer different tariffs for men and women because, by then, there will be a large number of unisex tariffs on offer".