Gay Couple Ruling Could Leave A Multi-Million Bill

20 July 2017

couple reviewing bills Whilst it has been warmly welcomed that the Supreme Court ruled that gay couples have equal pension rights, some commentators have said that this could result in a huge escalation of costs.

Former pensions minister, Sir Steve Webb said:

"This has potentially huge implications. Pension schemes will have to respond to this judgment, but new groups will come forward and say: 'I'm being treated unfairly… we want the same rights as well' - the difference between widows and widowers - for example." He said that, eventually, over time, with the potential for new cases: "We could be talking a multi-billion pound bill."

The case in question involved a former cavalry officer John Walker who was told by his employer that his husband would not be able to inherit his full pension thanks to a clause in the Equality Act that excludes same-sex partners from benefits paid into pension funds prior to December 2015. As Mr Walker had left his job before 2005, they argued that they were legally entitled to refuse his husband an equal right to his pension.

However, in a ruling by Lord Kerr in the Supreme Court, the judge said that the Act was incompatible with EU equality laws and should be changed. He told the UK's highest court: "If Mr Walker married a woman, even after his retirement, indeed even now, she would be entitled to a pension."

Innospec, the company in question was supported by the Department of Work and Pensions who also opposed Mr Walker's case. They argued that the costs involved in "requiring all pension schemes to equalise entitlements retrospectively" would be £100 million for private sector schemes and a further £20 million for public sector schemes.

Mr Walker was happy with the outcome, however, saying "Finally this absurd injustice has been consigned to the history books – and my husband and I can now get on with enjoying the rest of our lives together."

A spokesman for the DWP said it was "reviewing the implications of this judgement in detail and will respond in due course. The rights of same sex couples have been transformed for the better since 2010 including the introduction of same sex marriage and legislation to ensure that pensions are built up equally for all legal partnerships."

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