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Court of Appeal rules that gay couple are not entitled to equal pension rights

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A man who launched a legal battle, in a bid to ensure his husband would receive the same pension rights as a wife, has had his case rejected by the Court of Appeal.

John Walker retired from Innospec Ltd – a chemical group – in 2003, after being an employee at the company for 23 years, and his pension is worth £85,000 a year.

However, Innospec’s pension scheme failed to recognise a surviving same-sex spouse or civil partner in the same way as a partner of the opposite sex in a heterosexual marriage, in the event of the named pension holder’s death.

Mr Walker has been with his partner since 1983, and their relationship was formally recognised in a civil partnership before being converted into a marriage after the same-sex marriage law came into effect in 2014.

He decided to take legal action upon discovering that his husband would receive only a small fraction of his pension if he were to die, in contrast to the amount a hypothetical wife would receive.

In 2012, it was decided at an employment tribunal that Innospec Ltd’s pension scheme flouted EU law.

However, the company successfully appealed the decision and the Court of Appeal has also overturned Mr Walker’s objections, deciding that Innospec’s pension policy did not discriminate or breach his human rights.

Mr Walker retired with a pension fund that had already been accrued before laws banning discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation were implemented, which was pivotal in the latest decision.

As a result, his husband is only entitled to claim approximately £500 each year, in the event of Mr Walker’s death, despite the fact that if he were to dissolve his same-sex marriage and marry a woman she would receive almost £41,000 a year in the same situation.

Lord Justice Underhill said: “I can understand that Mr Walker and his husband will find this conclusion hard to accept.

“But changes in social attitudes, and the legislation that embodies those changes, cannot fully undo the effects of the past.”