Pension rights of spouses and civil partners on member’s death
Pension rights of spouses and civil partners on member’s death

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

  • Pension rights of spouses and civil partners on member’s death
  • What survivor benefits must be provided to spouses and civil partners?
  • The legal framework
  • Effective date of the non-discrimination rule as it applies in respect of same-sex spouses and civil partners
  • Contracted-out rights and survivor benefits
  • Legalisation of opposite-sex civil partnerships
  • Legality of differential treatment between widows and widowers in opposite-sex marriages
  • Impact of Walker v Innospec on private sector pension schemes
  • Impact of Walker v Innospec on public service pension schemes
  • Amending private sector scheme rules to equalise survivors’ benefits
  • more

THIS PRACTICE NOTE APPLIES TO OCCUPATIONAL PENSION SCHEMES

This Practice Note explores the pension rights of opposite-sex and same-sex spouses and civil partners (including the impact of the case Walker v Innospec) on a member’s death and the extension of civil partnership legislation to opposite-sex couples.

For a discussion of the pension rights of partners who are neither married nor in a civil relationship (ie cohabitants), see Practice Note: Pension rights of unmarried cohabitants on members’ death.

What survivor benefits must be provided to spouses and civil partners?

Private occupational pension schemes and public service pension schemes must provide the survivor benefits set out below. The remainder of this Practice Note explores these legal requirements further.

For an overview of the similarities and differences between marriage and civil partnership in other areas, including in relation to the State pension, see the table published by the Government Equalities Office.

Opposite-sex marriage

Generally in private sector occupational pension schemes, survivor benefits must be equal for widows and widowers in respect of accruals from 17 May 1990. This is the result of the case Barber v Guardian Royal Exchange (Barber). For more information, see: The legal framework, below.

In public service pension schemes, a female survivor in an opposite-sex marriage receives a ‘widow’s pension’ (calculated based on accruals from April 1978) while a male survivor receives a