Planned Future

Supreme Court pension ruling on rights of unmarried couples

The Supreme Court yesterday decided that an unmarried cohabitant partner was entitled to receive a survivor’s pension from her deceased partner’s pension scheme. This decision could have a significant knock-on effect on the rules of many UK pension schemes.
The case concerned Denise Brewster and William McMullan who, having been together for 10 years, had just become engaged before Mr McMullan’s death. Mr McMullan had been employed by Translink, a public transport operator in Northern Ireland, for around 15 years and was a member of the Local Government Pension Scheme throughout his service.
Mr McMullan hadn’t completed a nomination form in respect of the survivor’s pension and this was a requirement of the Northern Ireland local government scheme. This is apparently not a requirement of the local government schemes in England and Wales as they have already changed their rules and only require proof that the deceased was living with his/her partner as if they were married.
The judgement, unanimously supported by the Court and delivered by Lord Kerr, said: “There is no rational connection between the objective, which was to remove the difference of treatment between a longstanding cohabitant and a married or civil partner, and the imposition of the nomination requirement and therefore its discriminatory effect cannot be justified.”

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