Widowers and surviving same-sex spouses deserve equal pensions

A pink roseIn 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.


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.


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.

One thought on “Widowers and surviving same-sex spouses deserve equal pensions”

  1. Please follow up with a further petition and further pressure on government . It is unacceptable that women NHS pensioners right are not equal to men’s . I gather that civil partners and same sex marrieds are also disadvantaged.
    Teachers I believe are in similar position. In this day and age such inequality is totally unacceptable. A further test case should go forward to the courts .

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