High Court declares pension scheme rule unlawful

On 18 January 2018, Mr Justice Walker sitting in the High Court declared as unlawful the requirement for a “nomination form” in order for cohabitees to secure survivor pensions under the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) in England and Wales.

The decision affects the position of cohabitees whose partners died between 1 April 2008 and 1 April 2014. Although the case was brought by our client, Nicola Elmes, against only one of the authorities who administer the Local Government Pension Scheme, Essex County Council, the declaration means that cohabitees throughout England and Wales who were previously refused a survivor pension due to the lack of a nomination form are now entitled to one. Where a local authority refuses, for example, because the request is “too late” that decision is likely to be challengeable and we would recommend that legal advice is urgently sought.

The LGPS is one of the largest defined benefit pension schemes in the world and is the largest defined benefit scheme in England and Wales, with over 13,000 employers, 5.3m members and assets of £217bn. Given that there were nearly 3 million opposite sex cohabiting couple families and 84,000 same sex cohabiting couple families in the UK in 2014, the declaration made today is likely to benefit a significant number of bereaved cohabitees who, until now, have been denied life-long financial support despite the contributions into the pension schemes by their loved ones.

Deighton Pierce Glynn offers fixed fee advice in public sector pension scheme disputes, in particular in relation to discriminatory pension scheme rules. For more information, please contact Ms Elmes’ solicitor, Gareth Mitchell.