NEU defeats government in pensions equality battle

The NEU has won a significant victory against the government to secure full equality on survivors’ pension rights in the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.

The NEU brought a claim for discrimination against the government but following negotiations the government is no longer defending the claim and accepts that all surviving widowers, widows and civil partners should receive survivor pensions calculated on the basis of all of their spouse/partner’s service from April 1972 onwards.

The court case stemmed from the government’s response to the Supreme Court decision in the ‘Walker’ case, which decided that same-sex married couples and civil partners should have the same rights to survivor pensions as opposite-sex married couples.

The government chose to give same-sex spouses and civil partners the right to survivor pensions for all service from April 1972, the existing provision for opposite-sex widows. The glaring exception was for male widowers of female teachers, where it tried to maintain the existing provision which only covered service after April 1988. The government has now conceded that this discrimination cannot be maintained and that the applicable date in such cases should also now become April 1972.

NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “It is a pity that in the 21st century the government could not concede immediately that discrimination by sex and sexual orientation is wrong. All married couples and civil partners must receive the same treatment.

“The NEU calls on the government to apply this principle of equal treatment across the whole public sector immediately.”

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