Pitmans Law pensions director Symon Rowley has spoken to Professional Pensions on the potential implications for DB trustees following the Brewster ruling.
Last month, the Supreme Court decided that Denise Brewster had the right to claim her deceased partner’s pension, despite not being married.
Although this decision relates to public sector schemes, there has been speculation that private sector schemes could be similarly affected.
However, speaking to Professional Pensions, Symon said: “There is no immediate impact for trustees of private sector DB schemes. A similar claim made directly against a private sector scheme is unlikely because as the law stands it is not unlawful for such schemes to treat unmarried partners differently from spouses or civil partners. This is because marital status is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.”
Symon encourages employers and Trustees to clearly communicate with members the death benefits available to them, as many members are uninformed. “The term ‘common law spouse’ is widely used by members but it has no legal meaning and simply means a cohabitee. Members can be surprised to learn that where a pension scheme only pays a survivor’s pension to a spouse, this means their unmarried partner would receive nothing on death.”
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