The first same sex marriages can take place in England and Wales from 29 March 2014, this is some months earlier than originally announced. The legislation gives same sex spouses equal rights to survivors' benefits under occupational pension schemes as are offered to an opposite sex spouse but only in relation to pensionable service since 5 December 2005 (this is the same entitlement as civil partners). The provisions are overriding so no express amendment will be required before 29 March but trustees and employers should be aware of the new entitlements. More generous provision can be offered if desired but an augmentation or rule amendment may be needed. The 5 December 2005 cut-off is currently being reviewed following a successful challenge in the Employment Tribunal. The result of that review should be known by July 2014.
In contracted-out schemes, surviving same sex spouses are entitled to rights equivalent to those of a widower (this means GMPs are payable only in relation to service after 5 April 1988). This change is not strictly overriding so a scheme amendment may be required.
The law on divorce will apply equally to same sex marriages. This may not automatically feed through to scheme rules on pensions on divorce and so pension sharing schedules may need to be reviewed.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.