In this guest blog post, Sally Brett, Senior Policy Officer (Equality and Employment Rights) at the TUC, examines the inequality of survivor pensions.
Losing a partner is an emotionally distressing time. It is made more so if you are left with a big drop in income. This is why many occupational pension schemes provide ‘survivor pensions’.
What many people don’t know is that widowers, surviving civil partners and same-sex spouses are often entitled to much lower survivor pensions than widows.
A surviving same-sex spouse or civil partner is only legally entitled to a survivor pension based on their partner’s employment from 2005 onwards.
MANY LOSE OUT
One man brought a legal case to try and challenge this discrimination. He had 23 years’ service in his pension scheme but because this was prior to 2005 and he was in a civil partnership, none of it counted. If he had married a woman, all of his service would count and she would be entitled to a survivor pension of £41,000 a year. His civil partner can expect only the minimum £500 a year.
Many older working or retired women today have contributed into pension schemes for decades, but not all of this service counts towards a survivor pension for their husbands.
A widower of a GP tried to challenge this inequality. He received £3,200 a year less than a widow would receive from the NHS pension scheme as about a quarter of his wife’s service did not count.
A GOVERNMENT REVIEW
The TUC has campaigned to end this discrimination and our lobbying helped get a Government review of how much it would cost to fully backdate survivor pensions for widowers and same-sex couples.
The review shows that equal survivor pensions are affordable. The headline figures may sound big but for the private sector schemes it amounts to 0.03% of their total liabilities.
For the public sector schemes, employer contributions would have to increase by about 0.2% over the next 15 years to pay for the backdating.
The Government says it is considering the findings “very carefully before making a decision on whether the law should be changed”.
Please help us put pressure on the government to make the right decision by signing the TUC’s petition.