Pension rights of unmarried partners
You may have seen recent press articles that the Supreme Court has given Denise Brewster the right to benefit from her late partner’s pension under the Northern Ireland Local Government Pension Scheme, even though he had not signed the nomination form which the scheme required.
The Supreme Court held that as there were rules as to eligibility for non-married couples, requiring them to sign an additional nomination form, that it was “unlawful discrimination”, as married couples did not have to complete a similar form.
The English Local Government Pension Scheme has already dispensed with the need for such nominations although other public sector schemes, such as for nurses and the police, still require nomination. These will doubtless be reviewed as a result of this decision, but it is not necessarily the case that all schemes will have to adopt the same approach.
Many private pension schemes already give greater rights to non-married partners.
This decision indicates that although the law is gradually moving to improve the position of some cohabitees, it is crucial to appreciate that there is no such thing in law as a common law spouse, and cohabitees have very few rights compared to married couples.
To ensure protection for a cohabitee particularly after a partner’s death requires careful consideration of joint circumstances and use of legal arrangements such as living together agreements, and wills.