As you may have already read in the press, the Supreme Court ruled on 12 July 2017 that where a member of a defined benefit occupational pension scheme is in a civil partnership or same-sex marriage, their partner is entitled to equal spouses’ pension rights (that is, equal to those to which an opposite-sex married partner would be entitled).
Prior to this ruling, there was an exclusion from the legal requirement for equal treatment. That exclusion related to certain pension rights accrued through a member’s pensionable service before 5 December 2005. This is the date when civil partnerships were first introduced in the UK (and the same cut-off was also used when the law related to same-sex marriages was introduced).
Mr Walker entered into a civil partnership with his male partner in 2006. In the same year, Mr Walker asked Innospec, his former employer, to confirm that, in the event of his death, a spouse’s pension would be paid to his civil partner.
Innospec’s response was that, on the basis that Mr Walker’s period of service predated the introduction of civil partnerships in the UK, Mr Walker’s civil partner would not be entitled to a spouse’s pension as there was an exception in the Equality Act 2010 which covered this.