Landmark Pensions Win for Gay Rights


A man has won equal pension rights for his husband upon his death in a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court. We take a closer look at this pivotal case.

The case was brought to the UK’s highest court by John Walker, a retired businessman in an attempt to secure the same pension benefits upon his death for his husband as would have applied if he was to have a wife in the same situation.

The case came about after it was revealed that there is a caveat in the Equality Act that allows employers to exclude same sex civil partners and spouses from benefits paid into a pension fund before the Civil Partnership Act came into force in 2005. Mr Walker argued that his former employer’s pension scheme was acting unlawfully because it refused to pay his husband the equivalent of a widowed wife’s pension in the event of his death. Before the case was heard, Mr Walker’s husband stood to receive just £1,000 a year pension.

The favourable ruling by the Supreme Court was made on Wednesday 12 July 2017; it was also confirmed that companies taking advantage of the exemption within the Equality Act will be considered as breaking the law moving forward.

As it stands currently, occupational pension schemes usually allow the spouse of a deceased employee to receive 50% of the value of the pension for the rest of his or her life and, were Mr Walker married to a woman, she would receive about £45,700 a year as a widow’s pension.

Mr Walker and Liberty, the human rights group that acted for him, had argued before the Supreme Court that the exemption in the Equality Act is discriminatory and therefore unlawful; a unanimous decision was made in agreement and found that the exemption breaches EU equality laws.

As a result of this landmark ruling, pension schemes could now face a multi-billion pound bill as they’ll need to respond to this judgement to ensure that schemes moving forward have robust guidelines within the law.


For more information relating to pension rights within marriage or a civil partnership and how Pinney Talfourd can help, call us on 01708 229444 or email us using the form to the right. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of July 2017.


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