7th October 2015
A pensions expert has hit out at the treatment of a gay couple in a recent court case over entitlement to benefits after one partner dies as “dreadfully unfair”.
The courts ruled that a deceased scheme member’s survivor does not have rights beyond the statutory minimum to death benefits. Same-sex married couples are statutorily entitled to 50% of scheme benefits accrued from December 2005 and contracted out benefits from April 2008
David Brooks, technical director of Broadstone, the pensions and employee benefits consultancy, says: “The news that a gay man has lost a legal bid for his husband to be recognised with the same pension rights as a wife would have in a heterosexual relationship, means the controversial subject of same-sex marriage and pensions has again resurfaced.
“There have been many advances in same-sex marriage rules over recent years, but again the antiquated way that pension schemes operate means that survivors of a same sex marriage are not entitled to the same death benefits. This is dreadfully unfair and must be resolved.
Brooks adds:“The reason why the Government has ignored this is due to contracted out rights; these have had different rules since their introduction in 1978, such that survivor benefits were not equalised until 1988.
“This means that a man surviving his wife (who had been a member of a contracted out scheme between 1978 and 1988) would not receive a pension for this period of service.
“However, a woman surviving her husband, would receive a pension. The Government believes this inequality would need to be fixed as well if you equalised same-sex marriage.
“So, with the introduction of same-sex marriage and the following calls to make it the same for as for opposite sex couples isn’t quite so simple as there are inherent differences in the system which would need to be corrected.
“The Government has been reviewing this for some time, and its review currently resides in the long grass. However, I believe it should be dug out, dusted off and the clear conclusion be reached that irrespective of the gender of two people who have married they should receive the same pension rights when their loved one dies.”