Pension rights of same-sex spouses and civil partners on members’ death
Pension rights of same-sex spouses and civil partners on members’ death

The following Pensions guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Pension rights of same-sex spouses and civil partners on members’ death
  • The legal framework
  • Effective date of the non-discrimination rule as it applies in respect of same-sex spouses and civil partners
  • Impact on private sector pension schemes
  • Amending private sector scheme rules to equalise survivors’ benefits
  • Impact on contracted-out rights
  • Impact on public service pension schemes
  • What if the scheme rules fail to recognise civil partnerships (or same-sex marriages) entered into after retirement?
  • What if a civil partnership is converted into marriage?
  • Legalisation of opposite-sex civil partnerships
  • more


This Practice Note explores the pension rights of same-sex spouses and civil partners, including the impact of the case Walker v Innospec, on a member’s death.

For a discussion of the pension rights of unmarried partners other than civil partners (ie cohabitants), see Practice Note: Pension rights of unmarried cohabitants on members’ death.

The legal framework

European law origins

The Equal Treatment Directive, EU Directive 2000/78/EC (adopted in November 2000), prohibits employment discrimination on various grounds, including on grounds of sexual orientation. Article 2 prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination and defines harassment as amounting to discrimination. Articles 4–6 provide for exceptions to the principle of equal treatment.

The Equal Treatment Directive compelled Member States, including the UK, to introduce domestic legislation prohibiting such discrimination by 2 December 2003. While the Equal Treatment Directive did not prevent Member States from implementing domestic legislation providing greater protection against discrimination than the minimum required by the Directive, Member States were not entitled to reduce the level of existing protection in transposing the Directive.

The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, SI 2003/1661, transposed the Equal Treatment Directive in respect of sexual orientation into UK law on 1 December 2003. However, these regulations have since been superseded by the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010), which consolidated previous anti-discrimination