In a groundbreaking unanimous judgment handed down by the Supreme Court on 12 July in the case of Walker (Appellant) v Innospec Limited & others (Respondents) [2017 ] UKSC47, the Supreme Court allowed an appeal by a gay man enabling him to secure the same pension rights for his husband as a wife would receive. The Supreme Court held that the exemption in the Equality Act 2010 (Schedule 9: paragraph 18) on which Innospec had relied to justify smaller pension payments to Mr Walker’s husband offended EU law and must be disapplied.
Mr Walker’s husband will, therefore, benefit in the same manner as if he and Mr Walker were a heterosexual married couple. This ruling ends the survivor’s pension rights discrimination against same sex couples where pension benefits which accrued before gay civil partnerships were recognised by the law could be ignored if the couple were of the same sex. In effect the exemption on which this was based was found to be highly discriminatory. This Supreme Court decision confirming the position on gay pension rights therefore has a huge impact in the world of gay rights, EU law, anti-discrimination, insurance and pension administration.
The economic consequences will be huge for Mr Walker’s husband as he is now entitled to a survivor’s pension many times greater than that which he would otherwise have received. The decision also has huge consequences for the funding of final salary and public sector pension schemes. Experts predict that the ruling may lead to other groups, such as widowers who do not always benefit from a wife’s pension, claiming equal pension rights.
Ann Northover, consultant solicitor at Family Law in Partnership comments: “This ruling is a triumph for anti-discriminatory treatment as provided for by EU law. The judgment comes at an apt time for this country as the legislative ramifications of Brexit are being addressed. These are hard-won LGBT rights and the Government, hopefully, will fully uphold them in UK law.”
Read more about this case here.
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