Equal Pension

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2019 National Retired Members Conference
5 June 2019

Conference notes that:

1)The Supreme Court decision in Walker v Innospec in July 2017, that upon John Walker’s death his husband should get the same pensions as would a wife had he married a woman, relies upon European Union (EU) law and sets aside a provision of the United Kingdom’s Equality Act 2010 that permitted occupational pension schemes to pay benefits to surviving same-sex spouses and civil partners only in respect of contributions made since the introduction of civil partnerships in 2005;

2)On 28 March 2018 the Treasury confirmed the position for couples in public service pensions schemes:

a)The widow of a male spouse will receive benefits based on service since 1972;

b)The widow of a female spouse will receive benefits based on service since 1972;

c)The widower of a male spouse will receive benefits based on service since 1972;

d)The widower of a female spouse will receive benefits based on service since 1988.


3) On 27 April 2018, the government issued a briefing paper, Pensions: Civil Partnerships and Same-sex Marriages, outlining its intention to introduce regulatory changes to provide survivors of same sex marriages and civil partnerships the same pension provision as widows of opposite-sex marriages but there has been no subsequent progress

Conference observes:

i)The court has only decided John Walker’s case; we’ll only know, once it’s tested, how wide a precedent it sets; there have been reports of pension schemes advising members with same-sex partners, at least in the first instance, as if Walker v Innospec does not apply;

ii)The decision remains to be transposed into UK Law in accordance with the EU (Withdrawal) Act; and,

iii)Public service pension schemes continue to treat widowers of female spouse less favourably than other surviving partners and the proposals in the Government’s briefing paper do not address this question.

Conference affirms UNISON’s aim to bring surviving same-sex spouse and civil partners’ pensions and those for widowers of female spouses into line with those for widows of male spouses in all respects. It considers that UNISON should continue to campaign to do so by means of primary domestic legislation.

Conference instructs the National Retired Members’ Committee:

A)To work with the National Executive Council, the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Members’ Committee, the National Labour Link Committee and others as appropriate to continue to campaign to achieve equality; and

B)To encourage the Trades Union Congress (TUC) Pensioners’ Committee to give the matter regular attention and to raise it, if need be, with the Scottish TUC, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and others as appropriate.