As noted in our 2014 Pensions Planner, the majority of the provisions of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 will come into force next month (the relevant date has now been confirmed as 13 March 2014). There have been two interesting developments in this area this month:
- Walker v Innospec appeal decided
The Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled in the appeal against the Employment Tribunal's earlier ruling in the case of Walker v Innospec. The EAT ruled that pension schemes are entitled to limit dependents' benefits in respect of civil partners by reference to service after 5 December 2005.
However, trustees and employers should be aware that the Secretary of State is to undertake a review of the difference in treatment under occupational pension schemes between civil partners / same sex married couples and married couples of the opposite sex. This report will consider whether to make changes to eliminate or reduce any difference in treatment. Therefore, trustees and employers need to continue to monitor developments in this area.
- Trustees given statutory modification power to amend rules
As part of the legislative changes to implement same sex marriage, the Government has introduced a power to allow trustees to modify their schemes by resolution in order to provide for pension payments to a same sex spouse. Any such modification would not infringe Section 67 of the Pensions Act 1995 (which, broadly, prevents rule amendments that would or may detrimentally affect a member's accrued pension rights), and would not require employer consent (unless the modification provides benefits in excess of those required under the legislation).