A gay man has won a landmark ruling which will give his husband the same pension rights as a wife would receive, provided they remain married.
Ex-cavalry officer, John Walker, retired from Innospec in 2003 after working there for 23 years.
He asked his employer to confirm whether or not, in the event of his death, they would pay a spouse’s pension to his civil partner.
Innospec refused, explaining that Walker’s employment pre-dated 5 December 2005, when civil partnerships were introduced in the UK. The employer claimed that this meant any discriminatory treatment would therefore be permitted via the exemption under paragraph 18 of Schedule 9 of the Equality Act 2010.
Mr Walker’s made a successful tribunal claim for direct discrimination in 2013 but the case went to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), where the Department for Work and Pensions claimed that not backdating benefits for same-sex spouses was not in any violation of EU law.
He argued that if he were married to a woman, she would be entitled to £41,000 a year following his death, while his civil partner would only receive 1% of that amount and this was discriminatory.
The EAT agreed with Mr Walker and the Government proceeded to carry out a review of same-sex survivor benefits.
Court of Appeal
However, in October 2015, the Court of Appeal dismissed Mr Walker’s case, meaning pension schemes would not be obligated to provide employees’ civil partners benefits if their employment began before the 5th December 2005, therefore supporting the discriminatory exemption under the Equality Act 2010.
Supreme Court Ruling
On the 12th July 2017, The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that in the event of Mr Walker’s death, his husband is entitled to a spouse’s pension and the exemption under the Equality Act 2010 was discriminatory against homosexual couples.
DTM Legal’s Employment Associate, Tom Evans, says: “The decision will have a big impact on discrimination law and the operation of pension schemes generally as it now provides protection for homosexual pension scheme members in respect of periods before protective discrimination legislation came into force.”