Gay Couple Lose Court Battle Over Pensions

06/10/2015

BBC news online has reported that a gay man has lost a legal bid for his husband to be recognised with the same pension rights as a wife would have in a heterosexual relationship.

John Walker argued his husband would receive a fraction of his pension after his death, compared to a wife.

An employment tribunal in 2012 ruled his ex-employer Innospec Ltd’s pension scheme did contravene EU law. But Court of Appeal judges ruled the policy was not discriminatory and did not breach Mr Walker’s human rights.

Mr Walker retired from chemical group Innospec Ltd in 2003 – having worked there for 23 years – with a pension worth £85,000 a year. He then entered a civil partnership in 2006 – which has since been converted into a marriage – having been in a relationship with his partner since 1983.

However, because he retired before laws banning discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation came into force, the most his husband could claim in the event of Mr Walker’s death is about £500 a year.

Mr Walker claimed Innospec was failing to treat surviving same-sex spouses and civil partners as equal to surviving spouses in a heterosexual marriage.

His lawyers argued that if Mr Walker were to dissolve his same-sex marriage and instead marry a woman, she would be entitled to about £41,000 a year, after his death. The Innospec pension scheme would only pay his husband about 1% of that amount, they said.

In 2012, an employment tribunal in Manchester ruled Innospec’s scheme contravened European laws.

However, the company launched an appeal supported by the Department for Work and Pensions – and the decision was overturned by an Employment Appeal Tribunal last year.

The tribunal ruled that an exemption contained in the Equality Act 2010 meant pension rights accrued before civil partnerships became law in December 2005 did not have to be paid out in full to a civil partner.

Mr Walker then asked judges in the Court of Appeal to rule that the appeal tribunal decision was flawed and breached his human rights. He said it was contrary to EU laws setting out the framework for equal treatment in employment.

But three judges in the Court of Appeal unanimously ruled the claim failed because it applied to a period before gay civil partnerships were recognised by the law.

Giving his ruling, Lord Justice Underhill said: “I can understand that Mr Walker and his husband will find this conclusion hard to accept. But changes in social attitudes, and the legislation that embodies those changes, cannot fully undo the effects of the past.”

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Written by Jeremy Jukes | Associate Director

Ex semi-professional footballer Jeremy joined Mantle Financial Planning in 2008 after many successful years with Aegon. Read more >>

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