Waiting for LGBT+ pensions equality

Waiting for LGBT+ pensions equality

Full pension protection has always been one of the key goals of marriage equality campaigners. Before civil partnerships, and then same-sex marriage, occupational pension schemes could choose to offer a pension to a surviving same-sex partner, but they did not have to.

When civil partnerships were introduced in December 2005, the government only required private sector employers to provide equal pensions to surviving same-sex partners in relation to future service from that point (though same-sex partner benefits were granted to members of public service pension schemes based on service back to April 1988).

This meant that same-sex partners were only partly protected and might be entitled to far less pension than a surviving opposite-sex partner would have been (the potential discrepancy was particularly significant for members of private sector schemes).

Frustrated at this position, a pension scheme member brought a legal challenge to scheme rules that meant his same-sex partner would receive a much lower pension if he survived him than a surviving opposite-sex partner would have been entitled to. Because of the rules of his particular scheme, the difference was a pension of £1,000 a year compared to £45,000 a year.

The government intervened in the case to defend the discrimination. In July 2017, the Supreme Court finally ruled that the discrimination was incompatible with EU law and had to be disapplied. There was no legal basis for pension discrimination against scheme members with same-sex partners.

The government did not respond to the Supreme Court judgment until April 2018 when it announced that Treasury officials had written to public sector pension schemes about the implications of the judgments. Prospect is speaking to a number of these schemes about implementing full pension equality for same-sex couples. Hopefully this will finally come in officially during 2019.

Neil Walsh

Neil Walsh


  • Hi Neil, 

    Thanks for the update.

    Robert Springett

    13 February 2019 08:08

  • LGBT pension inequality indeed, but there are parts of the UK where inequality is so much more than that. In Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man women don’t even have full reproductive rights and LGBT equality is a distant dream. I’m a Northern Ireland member and my view is that if Norther Ireland  is to remain part of the UK then we must extend British rights to all British citizens including Northern Ireland. We know that the majority of people in Northern Ireland want this but come election time people are frightened into their sectarian camps which is reflected in the depressing voting patterns we have come to expect. Maybe with direct rule we can have modernising policy pushed through? Either way our union should be more active in extending these rights to our members in Northern Ireland. Unions after all have always been progressive forces for change. I would hope that now that Prospect has a greater presence in Northern Ireland that they will ‘get in the ring’ as regards these issues.

    No Logo

    21 February 2019 19:57

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