A recent case in an Employment Tribunal has now raised the prospect of an increase in pension scheme liabilities in respect of pension rights for civil partners.
The case was brought by Liberty on behalf of John Walker a member of the Innospec Pension Scheme. He had been a member of the scheme since 1980 and had entered into a civil partnership in 2006. He had calculated that should he die his partner would receive a pension of £500pa. However if he had married a woman and he died then she would receive a pension of £41000pa a considerable difference.
The tribunal ruled that Mr Walker was being discriminated against and that despite the scheme complying with all UK legislation they had fallen foul of the EU Equal Treatment directive. The tribunal therefore ruled that civil partners should get benefits based on full service and not just from when the legislation changed in 2005.
The case is now subject to appeal and we will wait with interest as to what happens next. There is no doubt that this has the ability to throw yet another massive spoke into the ever increasing liabilities of a pension scheme should this be ratified. However there is a long way to go before that happens but employers will be anxiously looking over their shoulders waiting for another nail to be hammered into the defined benefits pension coffin.