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Same-Sex Couples Need Pensions Equality

By Head of Core Services, General Law

It’s been a year since the government review, a reform to change survivor pensions in order to end inequality for same-sex couples has yet to take place. 

On June 26 2014 a review of survivor pensions was published. The review took place because of the passing of equal marriage legislation. The Review of Survivor Benefits in occupational Pension Schemes states that, “the capitalised cost of removing all these differences in the public service schemes is estimated to be around £2.9 billion”.

Despite the cost, this is what is required in the 21st century. Eliminating pension inequality would demonstrate the UK’s commitment to treat same sex couples equally.

There are around 70,000 people in the UK who are affected by this inequality in pensions.

Changes reflecting shifts in societal expectations have been made to survivor benefits over the past few decades. Women’s increased participation in the labour market, informed the Social Security Act of 1986, allowed men who survived their female spouses to get a survivor pension. Then in 1990, men who were a part of occupational pension schemes were given equal survivor benefits.

So why have we still not seen a reform to end pensions inequality for same-sex couples?

Same-sex spouses or civil partners can claim a survivor pension from defined benefit pension schemes, but contributions made to the pension scheme from before 2005 are not included in what they receive, should their partner pass away. This is because 2005 saw the introduction of civil partnerships, which was the first time that the law recognised same sex partnerships in the UK.

The Trades Union Congress has estimated that in one in every four pension schemes, same-sex survivors would be worse off than heterosexual partnerships. Same-sex survivor benefits need to be brought in line with opposite-sex survivor benefits. In this day and age, why should surviving civil partners or people in same-sex marriages be left thousands of pounds worse off than a widow or widower from an opposite-sex relationship? Making the benefits equal will help to show that the UK values loving homosexual relationships as much as it does heterosexual ones.

The UK Government has been put under pressure by the Trades Union Congress, calling for pensions reform and the not-for-profit advocacy organisation All Out has created a Make Pensions Equal Petition. Having acknowledged the inequality in pensions over a year ago, now is the time for the Treasury to fix pensions in the UK and make them equal for everyone.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers are experts in pension rights and benefits. If you have a pension dispute relating to your pension rights or benefits you might be able to make a claim. Call us on freephone 0800 916 9060 or contact us online and we will see what we can do for you.

Will, Pension

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