Petition created to equalise survivor benefits in Teachers Pension Scheme

A petition has been launched which asks for the equalisation of survivor benefits for widows and widowers of members in the Teachers Pension Scheme.

The petition, created by Shena Lewington, explained that despite both men and women paying exactly the same contributions into the pension scheme, and will receive equal pension benefits, survivor benefits are not equal.

The scheme provides for their surviving partners to receive 50 per cent of their pension. However, for the purposes of calculating these survivors’ benefits, male teachers leaving a widow have all their years of service from 1972 included. Female teachers (and same-sex couples) have all service prior to 1988 disregarded.

The petition is open until 15 March 2018 and requires 10,000 signatures for a government response and 100,000 to be considered for debate. It currently has 116 signatures.

"I've been taken aback by the number of people who didn't realise this disparity existed or that sex discrimination could still be allowed nowadays. Not a single teacher that I have spoken to knew about the inequality," Shena Lewington said.

Regardless of the petition, a ruling made by the Supreme Court in July this year may mean the scheme will be forced to change its rules surrounding survivor benefits. In the case of Walker v Innospec Limited and others the Court ruled that same-sex couples that are married or in a civil partnership should have the same pension benefits as heterosexual couples.

However, the ruling is based on EU law and it is not known whether it will be transposed into UK law when we leave the Union.

In April this year the government was asked whether the Secretary of State for Education has plans to equalise survivors' benefits from the Teachers' Pension Scheme for widowers, civil partners and same sex married couples with those for widows.

In response, Nick Gibb said: “There are no plans to review survivors’ benefits from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme. It has been the policy of successive governments that any changes or improvements to public service pension schemes are not normally applied retrospectively.

“This policy protects the current membership and taxpayers from having to meet unforeseen additional costs that were not previously taken into account, and to which those who would benefit have not contributed towards.”

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment on the Teachers Pension Scheme but is yet to respond.

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