Victory for survivor's pension
The Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision this year in a case brought by Denise Brewster relating to the refusal of the Northern Irish Local Government Pension Scheme (NI LGPS) to pay her a survivor’s pension.
Denise Brewster had been living with her partner for around ten years, and had got engaged just two days before his sudden death.
Although regulations governing the pension provided for the automatic payment to a spouse/civil partner, a survivor’s pension was only payable to a cohabiting partner if they had been named by the member.
NI LGPS refused to pay the survivor’s pension on the grounds that they were not in receipt of the necessary form completed by Mr McMullan nominating her.
The Supreme Court agreed that the requirement for a nomination form constituted an "unjustified difference in the treatment of unmarried couples" (when compared to married couples/ civil partners).
This case concerned a public sector pension scheme, and therefore the decision could have significant implications for other UK public service pension schemes as most of them contain (or have contained) a nomination requirement.
It is important for individuals who are members of pension schemes to check the eligibility criteria in respect of the payment of a survivor’s pension, and consider whether any action is required to be taken to demonstrate that the criteria has been met.