Gay man wins Supreme Court battle for same-sex pension rights

Former cavalry officer John Walker has won his 11-year discrimination case to secure his husband the same pension rights as a widow.

Mr Walker worked for chemicals group Innospec from 1980 to 2003, and made the same pension contributions as heterosexual colleagues.

He entered a civil partnership with his husband in January 2006, which they later converted to a marriage.

Innospec refused to grant a full spousal pension to his husband because Mr Walker’s employment with the firm started before December 2005.

An exemption in The Equality Act 2010 allows employers to exclude civil partners from spousal benefits paid in before The Civil Partnership Act 2004 became legal in December 2005.

Mr Walker brought a discrimination claim against his employer, and won an employment tribunal in 2012.

But in 2014, an employment appeal tribunal overturned the ruling. The Court of Appeal upheld this decision in 2015.

The Supreme Court has now unanimously ruled the exemption in The Equality Act 2010 is "incompatible with EU law and must be disapplied",  ending Mr Walker’s 11-year legal battle.

Lord Kerr, Justice of The Supreme Court, said:

“The salary paid to Mr Walker throughout his working life was precisely the same as that which would have been paid to a heterosexual man.

“There was no reason for the company to anticipate that it would not become liable to pay a survivor’s pension to his lawful spouse.”

Despite the fact Mr Walker set up his pension before The Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force, to refuse a full spousal pension in this case, he said, would amount to “discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.”

“Mr Walker’s husband is entitled to a spouse’s pension calculated on all the years of his service with Innospec, provided that at the date of Mr Walker’s death, they remain married.”

To read the full judgement, click here.

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