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Pension firms urged to give equal rights to civil partners

IFAs are calling on companies to give civil partners the same pension benefits as spouses despite a loophole in the Equality Act which allows schemes to withhold some pension contributions.

Under current legislation, civil partners of deceased employees are legally entitled to any pension contributions made after December 5, 2005, when the Civil Partnership Act came into force, which allowed same-sex couples to enter into a legal commitment equivalent to marriage.

An exemption in the Equality Act 2010 allows pension schemes to withhold any pension savings accrued before December 5, 2005.

In contrast, spouses of deceased employees get 50 per cent of the total pension accrued.

Thameside Wealth director Tom Kean says: “The law needs to be changed to make sure companies are required to give civil partners the full pension benefits they deserve.

“Until that time, it is up to companies to do the morally right thing and give civil partners these benefits anyway.”

Brunning Newman Houghton director David Brunning says: “Until the Government sorts out this oversight through legislation, companies ought to be doing this on a voluntary basis. In all cases, the same rights should apply to both civil partnerships and marriage.”

The calls come after multi-national company Foster Wheeler Energy agreed to give employees’ civil partners the same pension benefits as spouses following pressure from civil rights action group Liberty. Ian Waddy and Trevor Skipp succeeded in getting FWE to rethink its policy, arguing it breached European Law and the European Convention on Human Rights.

A hearing is due to take place before the Reading employment tribunal in January 2012 to determine if the original pension scheme rules unlawfully discriminated against the couple based on their sexual orientation.

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