Ian Waddy, 73, and Trevor Skipp, 65, from Surrey, have lived together for 40 years and entered into a civil partnership in 2006. Mr Waddy, who retired in 1999, receives a pension from former employer Foster Wheeler Energy Ltd. Under the company’s pension scheme surviving spouses are entitled to 50 per cent when a member dies, but civil partners were originally excluded – so Mr Skipp would receive nothing if Mr Waddy passed away first. Liberty brought a claim in the Employment Tribunal on the couple’s behalf and prompted a rethink from Foster Wheeler.
Corinna Ferguson, legal officer for Liberty, said:
“That civil partners were not entitled to the same pension benefits as spouses was clearly discriminatory and I’m very pleased for my clients that Foster Wheeler has decided to rectify the situation. But their reliance on the exemption in the Equality Act to defend the original rules underlines the urgent need for legal clarification in this area, which we hope this case will provide. In the meantime I’d ask any other couples in civil partnerships affected to contact Liberty.”
An exemption in the Equality Act 2010 seeks to allow pension schemes to discriminate against civil partners in respect of pension rights accrued before 5 December 2005, but Liberty argues this would contravene both European Union law and the European Convention on Human Rights. While Foster Wheeler agreed to amend its scheme to give civil partners the same benefits as spouses, the company maintains that the old terms were not unlawful – and continues to defend the claim of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.
Mr Waddy said:
“I am delighted that Trevor and I are finally going to be treated equally to other members of the pension scheme, and hope that this case helps to achieve fairness for all couples in our situation.”
A hearing is due to take place in Reading Employment Tribunal in January 2012 to determine whether the original pension scheme rules unlawfully discriminated against the couple on grounds of their sexual orientation.
Contact: Liberty press office on 020 7378 3656 or 07973 831128
Notes to Editors:
1. The Civil
Partnership Act 2004 came into force
on 5 December 2005, enabling same sex couples for the first time to enter into a
legal commitment equivalent to marriage. On the same date an exemption was
created to permit employers and pension funds to exclude civil partners from
spousal benefits attributable to service prior to 5 December 2005. This
exemption is now contained in paragraph 18(1) of Schedule 9 of the Equality Act
2. Traditionally, occupational pension
schemes state that when a member dies his or her spouse is entitled to 50 per
cent of the value of the pension for the rest of his or her life, regardless of
when the couple married. Some pension schemes have voluntarily extended this
benefit to employees’ civil partners.
3. The exemption in the Equality Act 2010 potentially affects any employee who: