LANDMARK CASE REMOVES RESTRICTIONS ON PENSION DEATH BENEFITS

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LANDMARK CASE REMOVES RESTRICTIONS ON PENSION DEATH BENEFITS

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Equality Act 2010 is incompatible with EU Directive prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The Supreme Court has overturned the decision of the Court of Appeal in Walker (Appellant) v Innospec Limited and others (Respondents)

The case concerned Mr Walker who had entered into a Civil Partnership and then when legislation permitted, a marriage with his same sex partner. The death benefits payable on his death to his partner were significantly less that would have been payable to an opposite-sex spouse and he claimed that this was discrimination.

The Supreme Court concluded that although the Equality Act 2010 did extend rights to same sex couples, which included pension death benefits, there was an exemption within the Act that allowed Trustees to exclude pension benefits payable in respect of service accrued prior to December 2005, when the EU Directive (2000/78/EC) was originally incorporated into UK law. The Supreme Court decided that the exemption should be disapplied as was incompatible with EU law and that Mr Walker’s husband is entitled on his death to a spouse’s pension, provided they remain married.

The Government has will have to consider whether a change in law is appropriate. It does however raise the question of retrospective legislation. It’s a case of one battle won, war not over yet.

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