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Liberty secures pension benefits for civil partner

Multi-national company Foster Wheeler Energy has agreed to give employees’ civil partners the same pension benefits as spouses following pressure from civil rights action group Liberty.

Under current legislation, civil partners of deceased employees are not legally entitled to any pension contributions made before December 5, 2005, when the Civil Partnership Act came into force, which allowed same sex couples to enter into a legal committment equivalent to marriage.

An exemption in the Equality Act 2010 seeks to allow pension schemes to discriminate against civil partners in respect of pension rights accrued before December 5,2005.

Spouses of deceased employees receive 50 per cent of the total pension accrued.

Liberty brought a claim in the Employment Tribunal on behalf of Ian Waddy and Trevor Skipp and forced FWE to rethink its policy. It argued the former policy breaches both European Law and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Waddy, 73, and Skipp, 65, have lived together for 40 years and entered into a civil partnership in 2006. Waddy retired in 1999 and receives a pension from former employer Foster Wheeler Energy.

Previously, Skipp was not entitled to 50 per cent of Waddy’s total pension if Waddy passed away first.

Liberty legal officer Corinna Ferguson says: “The reliance on the Equality Act to defend the original rules underlines the urgent need for legal clarification in this area, which we hope this case will provide.”

Waddy says: “I am delighted that Trevor and I are finally going to be treated equally to other members of the pension scheme and hope that this case helps to achieve fairness for all couples in our situation.”

A hearing is due to take place in Reading Employment Tribunal in January 2012 to determine whether the original pension scheme rules unlawfully discriminated against the couple on grounds of their sexual orientation.

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