Prospect backs call for equal rights to survivor pensions to be fully backdated

Unions call for equal rights to survivor pensions for widowers, civil partners and same sex spouses

Prospect is backing a call from the Trades Union Congress for ministers to remove one of the last legal hurdles to equality for same-sex couples.

Surviving civil partners and same-sex couples are often left thousands of pounds worse off than a widow would be when their partner passes away.

Some widowers are also losing out compared to widows. Only women’s pension contributions from either 1990, if they worked in the private sector, or from 1988 if they were employed in the public sector, count towards a survivor pension for their husbands.

Although civil partners and same-sex spouses now have the right to claim a survivor pension from a defined benefit pension scheme, it only applies from 2005 onwards and contributions before this date don’t count.

Last year, the government carried out a review of the inequalities in survivor pensions as it was required to do by the equal marriage legislation. Its findings were published a year ago today but it has still not made a decision on whether to end the discrimination.This is despite the review showing that the costs of equalising would be negligible for most schemes.

The TUC estimates that there are about 70,000 members of defined benefit pension schemes in the private sector alone who would leave behind a surviving civil partner or same-sex spouse. About one in four schemes do not treat same-sex survivors equally to widows.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Pensions law is discriminating against same-sex couples and those in civil partnerships, purely on the basis of their sexual orientation.

“The government must remove the last hurdle to equality under the law and bring an end to the discrimination that could leave thousands of people in poverty at a time when they are grieving for a loved one.”

The TUC is urging people to sign a petition, hosted by All Out, calling on the government to ensure that pension schemes give widowers, same-sex couples and civil partners equal survivor pensions.

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