UK - Seven trade unions have launched a High Court challenge against the government over the pension rights of homosexual workers.
The coalition – which includes Unison, Amicus and the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers’ union – claim government regulations designed to protect the rights of gay workers will allow employers to continue discriminating against them in pensions and employment by religious organisations.
The Trades Union Congress – which is coordinating the legal case – said the regulations are a misinterpretation of the original European Union Employment Equality Framework Directive and breach the Human Rights Act because schemes will still be able to restrict benefits to married partners.
But the TUC says that despite the High Court challenge, it is generally “very happy” with the rules which are due to come into force on December 1.
TUC head of equality and employment rights department Sarah Veale said: “We don’t think that employers should be allowed to go this far.
“The disappointing thing is that we would like to have said that this is fantastic, we have been campaigning for years and at last the law has changed and people will get protection. But you can’t sit back and do nothing about what we consider a wrong interpretation of the directive.”
However, Hammonds partner Francois Barker claimed the unions had “no chance” of succeeding under current EU law.
Pinsents partner Robin Ellison agreed: “You can’t discriminate on the grounds of sexuality, but under EU law, you are allowed to discriminate in favour of marriage.
“If the rules say, for example, that benefits are allowed for a married person, but not an unmarried person, it is probably legal. Providing the distinction is on the grounds of marriage, rather than sexual relationships, than it is probably okay. I think the chances of the unions winning are slim. Not nil, but slim.”
The other unions involved in the challenge are the teaching and lecturers’ unions the NUT, NASUWT and NATFHE and the Public and Commercial Services union.
The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) is in the process of convening an industry-wide group to take forward the work of the Institutional Disclosure Working Group (IDWG).
The Transfers and Re-registration Industry Group (TRIG) has given its support to an initiative which aims to complete occupational pension transfers within three weeks.
Scottish Widows has completed a bulk annuity deal for the Hitachi UK Limited Pension Scheme.