Court of Appeal tells John Walker’s partner he cannot access pension

Tim Lezard Europe, UK,

Royal Courts of JusticeThe TUC has called the government to end pensions injustice against gay couples.

The Court of Appeal yesterday ruled against equal pensions rights for a gay couple.

John Walker, 62, worked for chemicals firm Innospec for 23 years before he retired. He wanted to ensure that when he died, his younger partner would be able to access his pension.

He launched legal action against the company, arguing it was failing to treat surviving same-sex spouses and civil partners the same as widows or widowers in heterosexual marriages.

When he lost, he then took his case to the Court of Appeal, claiming he and his partner were victims of discrimination and human rights breaches.

Yesterday the court ruled against him, saying the rules governing the pension were written in a period before gay civil partnerships were recognised by the law.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Today’s ruling is a real disappointment. There are thousands of people like Mr. Walker who want financial security for their surviving spouse or civil partner but can’t get it because their pension schemes continue to discriminate against same-sex couples.

“Had the court ruled in favour of Mr. Walker it would have removed one of the last remaining obstacles to true equality for gay and lesbian couples.

“It is now time for the government to act to end this injustice. It is over a year since its review reported on the ongoing discrimination in survivor pensions and ministers have done nothing in response.”

John Walker had 23 years’ service in his defined benefit pension scheme and paid the same contributions as other members. If he was married to a woman all of it would count towards a widow’s pension worth some £41,000 a year. However, his husband would only be entitled to a few hundred pounds a year if Mr. Walker dies before him.

The TUC estimates that there are around 70,000 members of defined benefit pension schemes in the private sector alone who will leave behind a surviving civil partner or same-sex spouse. The majority of schemes treat same-sex partners the same as widows but approximately one in four do not. The government’s review in 2014 found that the cost of equalising survivor pensions for same-sex partners would be negligible.

 


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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