Equal Pension Rights Case Win Long Overdue
The law can sometimes be painfully slow to move with the times, so the case of a gay man who won a landmark ruling which will give his husband the same pension rights as a wife is welcomed by all progressive solicitors.
In recent weeks, the Supreme Court ruled that if John Walker, 66, dies, his husband is entitled to a spouse’s pension, as long as they stay together.
Welcoming the decision, ex-chemical company worker, Mr Walker said it would “drag” the government “into the 21st Century.
However, a government spokesman said it will now review the implications of the ruling, which will have a huge effect on the entitlement of thousands of civil partners and spouses in same sex marriages.
The decision means they will now be allowed the same pension rights and entitlements as those in a heterosexual marriage
The ruling means Mr Walker’s husband would be entitled to a spousal pension of about £45,000 a year in the event of his death, rather than around £1,000 a year.
Mr Walker, a one-time Cavalry officer, complained that it was to the government’s shame that it has taken years, huge amounts of taxpayers’ money and the UK’s highest court to update the law.
He had worked for chemicals group Innospec from 1980 to 2003 and made the same contributions to the pension scheme as heterosexual colleagues.
In 2006, he entered a civil partnership with his now-husband, which was later changed into a marriage yet his ex-employer refused to pay a full spousal pension, because Mr Walker’s service began before 5 December 2005 – the date civil partnerships became legal in the UK.
As things have stood, the majority of occupational pension schemes give half of the value of a pension to a spouse for the rest of their lives after their husband or wife dies – without taking the marriage date into account.
Despite this though, the Equality Act 2010 has an exemption for employers, allowing them to exclude civil partners from spousal benefits paid in before December 2005. However, the Supreme Court has now ruled the exemption under the 2010 Act is “incompatible with EU law and must be “disapplied”.
Of course, there is a threat that Brexit could not threaten the ruling and campaigners have urged the government that this is upheld when Britain leaves the EU.
The news, which will be welcomed by many thousands is a sign of how the law has had to adapt to a changed world and here at Pindoria Solicitors we welcome all legal developments, which reflects life as it is in the 21st Century.