Same-sex marriages: the effect on pension schemes

The introduction of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 will mean that from 13 March 2014, under English and Welsh law, married persons of the same sex will need to be provided with the same pension rights as those in civil partnerships. That is to say, in respect of benefits accrued on or after 5 December 2005 (and for contracted-out benefits accrued in respect of service from 6 April 1988), they must be treated the same as opposite-sex married couples.

However, there is also a provision in the legislation that says that the term ‘marriage’ has the same effect in relation to same-sex couples as it has in relation to opposite-sex couples. This will mean that the use of the terms ‘marriage’, ‘married’ or ‘spouse’ in pension scheme documents will be interpreted to include same-sex, as well as opposite-sex, couples from the date the act comes into force, and any benefit that a scheme’s documentation provides to spouses will automatically extend to same-sex spouses, without the limitation dates referred to above…

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