In a recent court case that was taken all the way to appeals court, a glaring error in equality legislation was highlighted. Far from bringing us equality, it would appear that the bringing about of same sex marriage has left us still with a fight for true equality.
I recently read this article from the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/29/gay-couple-take-pension-rights-battle-to-court-of-appeal which centres on 62 year old John Walker, who worked for chemicals company Innospec for 25 years, during which time he was paying into a pension with the company. The pension that he was paying in to would mean that should his wife survive his death, she would then be entitled to a benefit of £41,000 per year. However, as Mr Walker has a husband, not a wife, his husband is entitled to only £500 per year, just over 1% of what his wife would receive. Yes, you read that correctly, 1%. How on Erath is this not against the law I hear you ask. It all has to do with a flaw in the 2010 equalities act that allows pension providers to disregard contributions that were made for the benefit of a spouse, for any given length of time that the spouse would not have legally been related to the employee.
Confusing as well as infuriating. In Mr Walker’s case, he was not legally related to his partner until 2006 when the two had a civil partnership. That legislation never became law until December 2005, meaning that any pension contributions that Mr Walker made before that time for the benefit of his spouse, his employers do not have to honor as the partnership would not have been legal at the time of the contributions being made. The employers could, if they so wish, pay them anyway, and it is hoped (by me at least anyway) that most employers would not use this loophole as a means to discriminate. But for Mr Walker, who took his employers to court, won his case, only to find that his employers appealed against that decision, and won their appeal, then Innospec must surely be actively discriminating against Mr Walker, in order to save themselves money. Isn’t capitalism a beautiful social construct?
So, is anyone going to act on this? Well, you’d hope so wouldn’t you, but sadly, and again due to financial cost, it doesn’t look like this is going to happen. According the Guardian article cited above, the conservative estimate of changing the law could be in the region £3.3bn. I was flabbergasted by this sum. Their reasons stem from the idea that changing the law could create other inequalities, therefore there will be legal implications. How? Why on Earth would there be a need for other inequalities to be created?
The TUC has since gotten involved, as this discrimination doesn’t only extend to the LGBT community, but there are inequalities for widowers all round.
We are going to be following this one up. Hull North MP Diana Johnson will be lobbied on this and a resolution will be put to Hull North to the shadow equalities minister Kate Green. The Hull and East Riding LGBT forum will also be on board with its own motion to be put to Nicky Morgan MP, the government equalities minister. It is simply unacceptable in 2015 (or ever for that matter) that people can be discriminated against because of their gender, and any pension providers who take advantage of this legal loophole should hang their head in shame, may their name be in mud.
If you believe that this madness should end, please sign this petition, and tell them how you feel about it