the story (Walker v Innospec)
In the February 2013 edition of Pensions Pieces we mentioned a successful case brought by a civil partner against his pension scheme on the basis that it was not providing benefits in respect of his civil partner on an equal footing to those provided under the scheme to a spouse in an opposite sex marriage and that this was contrary to European equal treatment legislation and the Human Rights Act 1998. The decision has now been overturned by the EAT which means that, as the law stands, occupational pension schemes can, in relation to any spouses’ benefits they provide, restrict those, for non contracted-out benefits, so that civil partners are only entitled to benefits in respect of post 5 December 2005 pensionable service ('the minimum requirements').
However, the Government is in the process of conducting a review of benefits provided to both same sex civil partners and same sex married couples under occupational pension schemes which must, by law, be completed and reported on by 1 July 2014. For now, employers and trustees must at least satisfy the minimum requirements in relation to civil partners' pension benefits (these provisions override what the scheme rules say) and should consider whether or not anything more is to be provided – e.g. the same benefits that opposite sex spouses are entitled to.
In the meantime, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 has come into force which states that the same minimum requirements apply to same sex spouses as to civil partners, although there are some issues with its implementation.