Welsh govt launches consultation on firefighter pension changes

The Welsh government has launched a consultation into amendments for firefighters’ pension schemes that will affect same-sex spouses, civil partners and children of unmarried parents.

The aim of the amendments is to equalise survivor benefits in some circumstances for civil partners and same sex spouses, and children, with responses to the consultation needing to be submitted by 2 October.

The Firefighters’ Pension (Wales) Scheme (the 1992 Scheme) and the Firefighters’ Compensation Scheme (Wales) 2007 (the 2007 Compensation Scheme) are being amended following a 2017 Supreme Court judgement which ruled that civil partners and same sex spouses should be entitled to the same survivor benefit entitlement as those provided to survivors of opposite sex marriages.

Currently, civil partners and same sex spouses would only be entitled to a survivor’s pension based on the members’ pensionable service since 6 April 1988, with similar restrictions applying in the 2007 Compensation Scheme.

It has also been found that the 2007 Compensation Scheme does not currently make equal survivor benefit provision for children of unmarried parents.

This runs counter to a Supreme Court ruling which held that denying benefits payable to, or on behalf of, children based on their parents’ marital status was unlawful.

The new amendment would seek to ensure equality, while also eliminating the differential treatment currently applied to dependent, step and adopted children, which the consultation document stated was “impossible to justify”.

Other amendments included in the consultation included a proposed change to scheme rules for the 1992 Scheme and The New Firefighters’ Pension Scheme (Wales) 2007 (the 2007 scheme), which would see clarification that where a firefighter has an entitlement to two pensions under the schemes, the amount of the first pension is up-rated annually from the time of the reduction in pay until retirement.

Further changes to the 1992 Scheme and the 2007 scheme seek to update pension sharing rules in cases of divorce.

Further proposed amendments to the 2007 scheme would also provide for statutory commutation factors for firefighters up to age 75, in recognition of the increasing number of firefighters serving beyond age 65.

The Firefighters’ Pension Scheme (Wales) 2015 (the 2015 Scheme) currently allows firefighters with protected rights in the 1992 Scheme and 2007 schemes to transfer pension benefits via club transfer arrangements if they transfer between Fire Services in Wales, England, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

An amendment has also been added to allow existing members of the 1992 firefighters’ schemes in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to join the 1992 Scheme in Wales on transferring to a fire and rescue authority in Wales.

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