In Walker v Innospec Limited and others  UKSC 47, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that an exemption in the Equality Act 2010 – which allows employers to exclude same-sex partners from spousal benefits paid into pension funds before December 2005 – is discriminatory and breaches EU equality laws.
This ruling means the provision is immediately disapplied and companies taking advantage of the exemption will be breaking the law.
John Walker worked for Innospec for over 20 years and retired in 2003 – meaning that his employer was legally allowed to refuse his husband an equal right to his pension. Mr Walker and his husband have been together since 1993 and they entered into a civil partnership in January 2006, having registered it on the first day it was legally possible to do so. This was later converted into a marriage.
In accordance with the Equality Act exemption, should Mr Walker die, his husband would not receive the same survivor benefits he would if her were a woman. Those benefits would not include all the contributions Mr Walker made prior to 2005 and this left his husband with a pension of only a few hundred pounds a year. If Mr Walker were married to a woman, she would receive £45,000 a year for the rest of her life.
Innospec’s position was supported by the Department for Work and Pensions however the Supreme Court’s unanimous judgment was given and all five justices agreed that the exemption was discriminatory and breached EU law.
If you are unsure about your pension rights and entitlement upon separation, our specialist team can advise on pension settlement in divorce proceedings. Consulting our specialist lawyers in our Altrincham or Manchester offices is a great first step. Please contact us on 0161 927 3118 today.