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Discrimination: Marital and Civil Partnership Status

Key Points

  • The Equality Act 2010 (the "Act") applies to both employers participating in occupational pension schemes and the trustees of such schemes.
  • The Act also inserts an overriding non-discrimination rule into occupational pension schemes if they do not already contain such provision.
  • Under the Act, persons (including trustees of pension schemes) are prevented from directly or indirectly discriminating or victimising someone because the individual is married or a civil partner. Harassment protection does not apply in relation to marital or civil partnership status.
  • Same-sex partners have a right to any dependents’ pensions provided by pension schemes once they enter into a civil partnership or marry.
  • There formerly was an exemption which allowed pension schemes to restrict this right to benefits that accrued from 5 December 2005 (i.e. when legislation permitting civil partnerships came into force). This "temporal exemption" was found to be incompatible with EU law in the case of Walker v Innospec and no longer applies.
  • The exemption was the subject of a government review published in June 2014. The government is yet to make a final decision on any legislative changes to the exemption.


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