Mr Walker worked for Innospec (the Company) between 1980 and 2003, and was a member of the Innospec pension scheme (the Scheme), a defined benefit arrangement. He retired in 2003 on an annual pension of around £85,000 in today’s terms. He applied for a civil partnership with his long term partner on 5 December 2005, the day the Civil Partnership Act came into force. Their civil partnership was registered on 23 January 2006.
The Scheme provided a member’s surviving spouse with an annual pension of two thirds of the member’s pension. After the Civil Partnership Act came into force, the rules of the Scheme were amended ‘to the extent necessary to comply with legislative requirements relating to benefits payable to surviving civil partners’.
Mr Walker wrote to the trustees of the Scheme, asking them to confirm that his partner would be entitled to a spouse’s pension. The trustees of the Scheme stated that civil partners would be treated in the same way as married couples for any pensionable service since 5 December 2005: the minimum requirement under the Schedule 9 exemption. As all Mr Walker’s pensionable service was before 2005, his civil partner would be entitled to an annual pension of around £500, half the guaranteed minimum pension, which was the only benefit payable in respect of pre-2005 pensionable service. If Mr Walker had been married to a woman the same age as his civil partner, she would have been entitled to an annual pension of around £41,000. Mr Walker brought the case to the employment tribunal, and was supported in his claim by Liberty, the civil rights organisation. Following European case law, the tribunal found that the Scheme had directly and indirectly discriminated against Mr Walker on the grounds of his sexual orientation, as civil partners were in a comparable situation to married couples in the UK.