- The NASUWT is regularly contacted by members asking about the provision of survivor pensions for widowers from heterosexual marriages in the UK Teachers’ Pension Schemes. This is a matter for the UK Government as the position taken by all UK public service pension schemes on survivor benefits is determined by HM Treasury. The wider context of survivor benefits for all surviving partners is important.
- The Civil Partnership Act came into effect in December 2005 and meant that, for the first time, the surviving partners of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) teachers in civil partnerships received adult survivor pensions which only partners of teachers in heterosexual marriages had previously received. In 2013, this entitlement was extended to teachers in same sex marriages following the enactment of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.
- However, until very recently, benefits in the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) for civil and same sex married partners were unequal compared with benefits for widows of heterosexual marriages. Pensions for widows in heterosexual marriages were based on pensionable service back to 1972 and pensions for civil partners, same sex married partners and widowers from heterosexual marriages were only based on pensionable service back to 1988.
- The NASUWT campaigned against this discrimination and eventually secured equality for LGB teachers and their partners.
- Following years of injustice, the Department for Education (DfE) announced in April 2018 that teachers’ adult survivor pensions for all same sex spouses and civil partners would be based on the same accrued pension as adult survivor pensions for widows of opposite sex marriages, backdated to 1972. The TPS Regulations have now changed to implement the change in survivor benefits for same sex partners.
- Regrettably, pensions for opposite sex widowers of teachers were not equalised at the same time and are only based on pension accrual from 1988 onwards, rather than from 1972 onwards. The discriminatory provision of adult survivor benefits has always been unacceptable to the NASUWT and the Union continues to campaign for this discrimination to be ended, so that survivor pensions passed on by women teachers to their surviving husbands are based on pension accrual from 1972 onwards.
- The NASUWT welcomed the decision taken by HM Government to equalise survivor benefits for teachers’ same sex partners, as this followed a lengthy NASUWT campaign, but continues to condemn the failure to extend this equalisation to widowers from heterosexual marriages.
Government consultations on equalisation of widowers’ pension benefits
- The Government launched a consultation on the equalisation of surviving partner pension benefits in 2014. The NASUWT argued strongly for full equalisation for widowers’ benefits, stating: ‘The NASUWT believes that it is nothing short of scandalous that discriminatory provision of survivor benefits has been in place in the TPS since 1989. Discrimination against women teachers was added to by discrimination against LGBT teachers, so that discrimination became layered over discrimination. The NASUWT strongly believes that such discrimination must now end and that the ending of that discrimination is not only just, but is clearly affordable.’
- The Government responded to its consultation in June 2014, commenting on the costs of equalisation (which were manageable) and not making any decision.
- The NASUWT made its position clear again in a consultation response to the Department for Education (DfE) in June 2019. The DfE had announced in its proposals for consultation that it would not be consulting on the ending of discrimination towards widowers from heterosexual marriages and the NASUWT stressed the unacceptability of this:
‘6. It is fundamentally unfair, and potentially discriminatory towards women teachers in heterosexual marriages, for widowers’ benefits to derive only from accrued service from 1988 onwards.
7. In order to fully complete the reforms to the TPS to ensure that its provisions for adult survivors are not discriminatory, it is necessary to treat accrual from 1972 onwards as contributing towards widowers’ pension benefits.
8. The NASUWT notes that the consultation states that the Government will ‘respond in due course’ on the issue of male survivors of opposite- sex marriages. The NASUWT believes the Government’s response to be long overdue and also that its eventual response should confirm that accrual from 1972 onwards will contribute towards widowers’ pension benefits. To do otherwise would continue a form of unacceptable discrimination towards women teachers and would make public service pension schemes vulnerable to further legal action…. Moreover, if civil partners/spouses have paid for their pre-1988 service to contribute towards their partner’s survivor pension, this should be refunded.’
- The UK Government’s formal position is that the provision of full equality to widowers from heterosexual marriages is still a matter under review and the NASUWT therefore encourages members to write to their MPs demanding that the Government changes the Regulations governing the UK Teachers’ Pension Schemes so that all married and civil partners, irrespective of whether it is a same sex or an opposite sex marriage, receive a survivor pension based on pension accrual from 1972 onwards
Writing to MPs
- Survivor benefits in public service pension schemes are reserved to HM Treasury, so members should contact their MP to ask for discrimination towards widowers from heterosexual marriages to be ended, for all accrued service from 1972 onwards to count towards the survivor pension and for any payments made to buy pre-1988 service to be fully compensated.
- If you have a personal story to tell about the unfairness of discrimination, or the hardship which it would cause, please do focus on this. Personal stories are particularly effective if MPs receive more than one piece of correspondence on the same issue.
- If you wish, please make use of the HM Treasury report refusing to equalise pension benefits for widowers and the NASUWT’s submissions to the Treasury and the DfE consultations on this issue. Please feel free to forward these to your MP.
- Please do stress that the Government has costed out ending discrimination in the provision of survivor benefits as adding 0.2% to employer pension costs over a 15 year period. Please stress that you believe this to be easily affordable.