UK Supreme Court Gives Survivors’ Pensions to Bereaved Same-Sex Spouses

by Lib Dem FoP –

In a landmark ruling today, the UK Supreme Court gave important rights to a full spouse’s pension from their late spouse’s company pension scheme to a surviving partner. The case concerned John Walker who was claiming against his former employer, Innospec. In the course of the appeals to the Supreme Court, the government employment department (“and others”) had joined the company side. The press release (.pdf) gives the full background together with the legal impediment that John Walker’s husband would face and the effect if John were to die.

John Walker, the appellant in these proceedings worked for the respondent, Innospec Ltd, from 1980 until  his  retirement  in  2003.    Throughout  that  time  he  made  regular  contributions  to  the  firm’s occupational pension scheme. Mr Walker is gay and has lived with his male partner since 1993. They entered into a civil partnership on 23 January 2006 and are now married. In  2006 Mr  Walker  asked  Innospec  to  confirm  that,  in  the  event  of  his  death,  they  would  pay  the spouse’s pension, which the scheme provides  for,  to  his  civil partner.
Innospec refused,  because  his service predated 5 December 2005, the date that civil partnerships were introduced in the UK, and any discriminatory treatment is therefore permitted under paragraph 18 of Schedule 9 to the Equality Act 2010.
This provides that it is lawful to discriminate against an employee who is in a civil partnership or same-sex marriage by preventing or restricting them from having access to a benefit, facility or service the right to which accrued before
5 December 2005 or which is payable in respect of periods of service before  that  date
.
If  Mr  Walker  was  married  to  a  woman (or  indeed  if  he  married  a  woman  in  the future) she  would  be  entitled  on  his  death  to a “spouse’s pension” of about  £45,700  per  annum.  As things stand at present, Mr Walker’s husband will be entitled to a pension of about £1,000 per annum (the statutory guaranteed minimum).

But the ruling was good news.

A gay man has won a landmark ruling which will give his husband the same pension rights as a wife would receive.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that if John Walker, 66, dies, his husband is entitled to a spouse’s pension, provided they remain married.

The ex-cavalry officer said it would “drag” the government “into the 21st century”, while human rights group Liberty said “thousands” could benefit.

A government spokesman said it would review the implications of the ruling.

You can see the full judgment being given here:

If John were to die, his surviving spouse will now receive the full £45,700 spouse’s pension. The judgement will mean many older people in same-sex marriages will be more confident of their partner’s financial security in the event of their death.

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos