A former cavalry officer in a same sex marriage has secured a landmark pensions ruling from the Supreme Court.
After leaving the military, John Walker, now 65, spent his career at chemicals company Innospec, contributing to the firm’s occupational pensions scheme. He entered a civil partnership in January 2006 and this was later converted into a marriage.
He later discovered that, in the event of his death, his husband would receive just one per cent of the survivor’s pension to which a wife would have been entitled. This was, explained Innospec, because he had begun contributing to the pension scheme before the introduction of civil partnerships in December 2005.
This meant that the case fell under the Equality Act 2010, specifically paragraph 18 of Schedule 9. This states:
“A person does not contravene this Part of this Act, so far as relating to sexual orientation, by doing anything which prevents or restricts a person …from having access to a benefit, facility or service—
(a)the right to which accrued before 5 December 2005 (the day on which … the Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force)…”
Mr Walker began legal action, claiming the restriction represented unlawful discrimination. His case found success at an employment tribunal but Innospec successfully appealed at a second tribunal hearing. Judges also backed Innospec in the Court of Appeal, noting that Mr Walker and his spouse had begun living together a full 12 years before the legalisation of civil partnerships.
The case proceeded from there to the Supreme Court and Justices there have now unanimously reversed the earlier rulings, declaring paragraph 18 of Schedule 9 to the Equality Act incompatible with EU law – specifically EU Directive 2000/78/EC, which prohibits employment discrimination in member states.
Consequently Mr Walker’s husband was entitled to a full surviving spouse’s pension, ruled Lord Kerr, provided the couple do not divorce before Mr Walker’ death.
Read the full ruling here.
Image by David Holt via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence