Equality in survivor benefits

Changes to Survivor Benefits Made

The courts have made a number of important decisions over recent years in relation to survivor benefits in pension schemes and equality.   

In 2017, in a case known as Walker v Innospec, the Supreme Court held that occupational pension schemes must provide civil partners (at that time all civil partners were same sex) and same sex spouses with the same survivor benefits as opposite sex married couples.  In 2020 an Employment Tribunal decided in a case known as Goodwin v Department for Education that benefits for male survivors of opposite sex marriages should be equal to other categories of survivor.   

Some changes were made to the Scheme in January 2020 and again in April 2022 so that survivor benefits are now calculated on the same basis in the same circumstances, irrespective of the gender of the member or the survivor.  Members should note that following the changes, for all survivors of members where the marriage or civil partnership took place after the member left the scheme (that is, when you are a deferred member or a pensioner), only membership after 5 April 1978 is taken into account.  The calculation of pension for surviving cohabiting partners is unchanged.  There is one exception to these general rules – where the transitional provisions put in place when survivor pensions for widowers were first introduced under the 2000 Regulations apply, benefits may be calculated differently.

NILGOSC welcomes these changes, which promote equality for all our members.  The other rules around calculation of benefits remain the same. 

The changes made in April 2022 have retrospective effect back to 2005, when civil partnerships were introduced in Northern Ireland.  However, you do not need to take any action.  If your benefits may have been affected, NILGOSC will contact you.