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NI High Court Rules On Right Of An Unmarried Partner To Access Survivor’s Pension

The High Court has found that a woman who co-habited with her partner for 10 years has a right to access her partner’s pension after his death. The Northern Ireland Local Government Officers’ Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC) declined to pay a survivor’s pension to the applicant in the absence of a nomination form that would have named her as her partner’s survivor. The applicant claims that this decision is a breach of her rights under Article 14 read together with Art 1 of the First Protocol ECHR. She alleged that it discriminated against her on the basis of her status as the unmarried partner of the deceased. In 2009 co-habiting partners became eligible for survivor’s pensions on the condition that a nomination form was filled out, naming the person to whom the pension should be paid. Shortly after this development the applicant and her partner became engaged, and very soon after this he passed away unexpectedly.

The fact that he had not nominated the applicant as his cohabiting partner under Regulation 24 of the Local Government Pension Scheme (Benefits, Membership and Contributions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009 meant that she did not stand to receive the sum of money left behind. The applicant argued that the requirement of a nomination is unlawful and having to complete additional paperwork that married couples do not have to complete is an unnecessary hurdle. Furthermore she alleged that the fact that NILGOSC does not have discretion in circumstances such as those of the applicant’s case is also unlawful. The court concluded that the means of the Regulations seem to be inconsistent with the aim, which is to facilitate entitlement to a pension. The court therefore concluded that there was disproportionality between the means and the aim, and the judicial review was allowed.