O’Grady says pensions law is discriminating against same-sex couples and those in civil partnerships, purely on the basis of their sexual orientation

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, Equality, Pensions

Same sex handsThe TUC today urges ministers to remove one of the last legal hurdles to equality for same-sex couples.

The call comes on the anniversary of the government’s review into survivor benefits in occupational pensions.

Surviving civil partners and same-sex couples are often left thousands of pounds worse off than a widow would be when their partner passes away.

Although civil partners and same-sex spouses now have the right to claim a survivor pension from a defined benefit pension scheme, it only applies from 2005 onwards and contributions before this date don’t count.

Last year, the government carried out a review of the inequalities in survivor pensions as it was required to do by the equal marriage legislation. Its findings were published a year ago today but it has still not made a decision on whether to end the discrimination.This is despite the review showing that the costs of equalising would be negligible for most schemes.

The TUC estimates that there are about 70,000 members of defined benefit pension schemes in the private sector alone who would leave behind a surviving civil partner or same-sex spouse. About one in four schemes do not treat same-sex survivors equally to widows.

Peter Armstrong-Luckhurst met his husband Kristofer in 1990. They entered a civil partnership in 2009 and converted to marriage in December 2014. He has contributed for 16 years to an NHS pension scheme and bought another four years’ worth of ‘pension credits’.

He said: “In the event of my death before Kris his pension is assessed as £793.18 per annum. An opposite sex widow would receive a half pension, £5,585.91 per annum. That is a difference of about £4,800 per year if Kris survives me.

“Hypothetically, I could divorce Kris in the last few weeks of my life and take a heterosexual partner who would be placed at a significant advantage, as a wife of a few weeks, compared to my husband, who has been my partner of nearly 25 years.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Pensions law is discriminating against same-sex couples and those in civil partnerships, purely on the basis of their sexual orientation.

“It is a scandal that people are losing thousands of pounds every year simply because they have a same-sex spouse or have a civil partner.

“The government must remove the last hurdle to equality under the law and bring an end to the discrimination that could leave thousands of people in poverty at a time when they are grieving for a loved one.”

The TUC is urging people to sign a petition, hosted by All Out, calling on the government to ensure that pension schemes give widowers, same-sex couples and civil partners equal survivor pensions.

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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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