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A recent employment tribunal decision calls into question the UK's implementation of the Equal Treatment Framework Directive (2000/78/EC) in relation to pension rights for civil partners.
Mr Walker, a retired member of the Innospec pension scheme, claimed that Innospec Limited had discriminated against him in relation to his pension benefits. Specifically, the Innospec scheme provided a spouse's pension to a member's civil partner, but only in relation to service since 5 December 2005 (the date that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force). The respondents relied on the proviso in the Equality Act 2010 under which civil partners must be treated in the same way as spouses on the death of a scheme member, but only in respect of pensionable service completed after 5 December 2005.
The tribunal held that the company had directly discriminated against Mr Walker in refusing to provide a spouse's pension in relation to service accrued before 5 December 2005, and that such discrimination was prohibited by the Framework Directive. Further, the exemption in the Equality Act 2010 for service built up before 5 December 2005 should be interpreted compatibly with the Directive so as to preclude the respondents from relying on it. (Walker v Innospec Limited and others ET 241131/2011.)