DfE consults on civil partnership pension benefits

The Department for Education (DfE) has launched a consultation on proposals to provide civil partners and same-sex spouses with the same survivor rights as widows.

The proposed changes to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) mean that the survivors of male and female same-sex partners will have their pensions entitlements equalised with those of their widows.

The consultation, published today (15 May), is in response to the Supreme Court judgement in the case of Walker v Innospec, which ruled that public sector schemes must amend the rules to provide equal survivor benefits as those currently provided in an opposite-sex marriage.

According to the government, the changes could have consequences for members who have made additional contributions to increase survivor benefits.

“As a result of these amendments, some surviving same sex spouses and civil partners may become entitled to an increased pension,” it said.

“Teachers’ Pensions will advise the affected surviving partners of any action they need to take to assist the scheme administrator in rectifying the position.”

Furthermore, DfE will also seek thoughts regarding the removal of requirements to nominate unmarried partners for survivor benefits.

Currently, an un-married co-habiting partner must be nominated before the member’s death and have been in the relationship for at least two years, however, the government is looking to remove the nomination element of the qualification criteria.

Other criteria for receiving the benefits include ensuring the un-married couple were not legally prevented from marrying, neither were living with a third person as if they were married and that the couple were financially interdependent.

The decision to make the amendment stems from the Brewster case, a separate Supreme Court ruling, in February 2017, which determined that the requirement to nominate adds nothing to the objective inquiry.

A number of ‘other amendments’ are also being considered as part of the consultation, including pension protection lump sum death grants, ill-health pensions and the introduction of the Jewish Schools Network as a TPS employer.

The consultation will run until 25 June 2019, with regulations changes to be expected in the autumn.

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