UK/EU - The UK government could be in breach of European law unless it removes a proposed blanket exemption which allows UK pensions schemes to favour married people.
According to the Trades Union Congress, which represents 69 UK unions or some 7 million workers, the exemption is discriminatory since it excludes lesbian and gay workers and their partners.
The comments were in response to the government's consultation exercise on how the European Union Employment Equality and Race Directives will be brought into UK law.
The TUC added that a lesbian or gay worker could argue that because they cannot marry, UK law discriminates against them on the grounds of their sexual orientation - something the European Equality Directive does not allow.
TUC general secretary elect, Brendan Barber, said: Once again, workers have Europe to thank for helping make the UK a fairer place to work. When the directives are fully in force, it will be much more difficult for employers to get away with discriminating against any member of their staff because of their race, sexual orientation, religion or disability.
But the government must act to bring about pensions equality. In this day and age, it is desperately unfair to continue to deny lesbian and gay workers and their partners the same pensions benefits that married colleagues and their partners enjoy.”
But Barber warned that the directives may mean that some employers could still run discriminatory schemes if they had ‘good’ reasons, for example, showing that the costs or administrative difficulties outweighed the number of workers who might benefit.
Contrary to the government, the union believes that UK courts must be able to test these reasons.
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