“Hurrah!” I thought, when I saw that the Government review had been published on the differences in survivor benefits provided by occupational pension schemes for opposite and same sex spouses and civil partners. “At last!” I thought, some clarity on the legal v moral argument around this area of discrimination that still remains in the pensions arena. Sadly this is not the case.
My first impressions on the Government’s review paper is that (a) it ticks the box for issuing something by 1 July 2014 as per the statutory review deadline (as discussed in our February alert), (b) it gives a long list of reasons as to why this is a complex issue and (c) highlights how much it would cost public sector schemes to provide equal benefits albeit the Government thinks this is much less of an issue for private sector schemes. However, given that the general election is round the corner, I suspect that the Government is trying to juggle this complex issue with the cost of treating people equally (whilst trying to win votes?). Quite a conundrum for the Government but is it really that difficult?
In the meantime, in the absence of any clarity, the position for occupational pension schemes remains the same. Therefore I would reiterate the comments that my colleague Anthea stated in her blog on 28 March, namely that trustees and employers ought to consider the survivors’ benefits to be provided to same sex spouses and civil partners and ensure that their intentions are reflected in the pension plan’s rules.