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POLICY GUIDE - Pensions and equal treatment of dependants


Pensions and equal treatment of dependants

Current UNISON Scotland policy (1):

Superannuation forms part of staff service conditions and as such should be disbursed equally and without discrimination. Currently, in public sector schemes and many private schemes, benefits are disbursed to ‘spouses', usually defined as ‘only persons married to the member at the time of death'. This excludes non-married partners, be they heterosexual, gay or lesbian, and is clearly discriminatory. This leads single people and couples living together or in a financially interdependent relationship actually subsidising the pensions of married couples.


UNISON has a UK campaign to end discrimination against non-married partners in public sector pension schemes.

Changing the public sector schemes requires government action and the Government has argued that members would have to pay increased contributions in order to extend pension rights to unmarried partners. UNISON has counter-argued that this is not the case - that extending benefits would be cost-neutral because of the unplanned savings in the schemes resulting from the drop in numbers of people getting married.

The new Civil Service pension scheme, coming into effect in October 2002, has introduced a ‘surviving partner's' pension but at an increased cost to members.

UNISON is examining whether to take a test case and is monitoring a case Liberty is taking through the European Court of Human Rights.

For further information on UNISON's campaign to extend pension rights to unmarried partners see: http://www.unison.org.uk/resources/

For further information:

Civil Service Pensions - dependants' and ill-health retirement benefits: http://www.civilservice-pensions.gov.uk/menu.asp?MenuIDS=2,14,134

Local government pension scheme: details of benefits http://www.lgps.org.uk/AAYS/

NHSScotland and Scottish teachers pension scheme - Scottish Public Pensions Agency click http://www.scotland.gov.uk/sppa/ home

(1) Source: City of Edinburgh motion for National Delegate Conference, supported by Scottish Council, February 1999. Also: Glasgow City branch motion 2001 calling for united campaign to change conditions of Strathclyde Pension Fund


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Dave Watson : d.watson@unison.co.uk

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Updated April 2002