A case was issued recently by a man called Mr Walker, who was claiming discrimination because his same sex spouse would not be treated as an opposite sex spouse when benefiting from Mr Walker’s pension.
When the Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force, there were issues around how to treat pensions, as pension benefits can change how pensions are funded. It was therefore agreed that civil partners would receive the same rights as opposite sex spouses on all pensions from 5 December 2005. This was applied to same sex spouses when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 came into force. It is this time limit that Mr Walker argues is discriminating.
The government is reluctant to remove this deadline, as full equalisation of pension benefits would be very expensive. It would mean that a lot of unforeseen people would suddenly benefit from their spouse’s pensions. Most pension schemes have followed this argument, and limit the benefits civil partners and same sex spouses can accrue.
However, some pension schemes have actually provided the same benefits for civil partners, same sex spouses and opposite sex spouses because it was cheaper in the long run, so it is always worth checking.
It is possible that the European equality legislation may step in here, as it can have implications in respect of age discrimination as well as sexual orientation. It will be interesting to see what this case does, as it already has a lot of public sympathy.
If you have recently entered a civil partnership or same sex marriage, it was worth speaking to your pension provider to find out what their position is. If you need any advice, please contact our family team. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01483 302000