Home Office circular 52 / 2005
Police Pension Scheme - Civil Partnership
- Broad subject: Police Service
- Issue date: Wed Dec 14 00:00:00 GMT 2005
Crime Reduction and Community Safety Group (CRCSG), Policing Policy, Police Human Resources Unit (PHRU)
- Linked circulars:
No Linked Circulars
- Copies sent to:
Chief Officers of Police (England and Wales), Clerks to the Police Authorities
- Sub category: Police pensions
- Implementation date: Mon Dec 05 00:00:00 GMT 2005
- For more info contact:
John Gilbert 020 7035 1880
- Addressed to:
Chief Officers of Police (England and Wales)
Dear Chief Officer
This HOC is about the effects that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 will have upon Human Resources issues for the Police Service when it comes into force on 5 December 2005. In particular, it concerns the effect upon the Police Pension Scheme, which is the area where most changes are likely to occur. Pensions Administrators should note that they are requested to include provision for civil partners in the Police Pension Scheme from the date the legislation comes into force on 5 December 2005. Details of what changes to the Police Pension Regulations are involved and the action administrators should take are set out below. The text of a draft letter for administrators to send to scheme members (i.e., active members; deferred pensioners; current pensioners; and those receiving survivor benefits) is attached at Annex A.
2. From 5 December 2005, same-sex couples can have their relationship legally recognised. The Civil Partnership Act allows same-sex couples to make a formal, legal commitment to each other by forming a civil partnership. The major implication of this legislation is the need to treat a couple in a civil partnership in the same way as a married couple. At present, same-sex couples have no way of gaining formal legal recognition for their relationship and as a result suffer a range of problems in their everyday lives.
3. Important rights and responsibilities will flow from entering a civil partnership, helping same-sex couples to organise their lives together. All officers and police staff should be aware of this new status both in connection with their dealings with each other, whether as colleagues or managers, and in their dealings with the public.
4. Implementation of the Act involves significant changes in many areas, for example in court rules, the registration service as well as training and guidance for employers. It should be noted that it is also a requirement of law that Marriage and Civil Partnership must be considered as separate and distinct from each other. Provisions in the Act for parity with marriage include:
- employment and pension benefits
- recognition under intestacy rules
- access to fatal accidents compensation
- recognition for immigration and nationality purposes
- a duty to provide reasonable maintenance for a civil partner and any children of the family
- civil partners to be assessed in the same way as spouses for child support
- equitable treatment for the purposes of life assurance
5. Civil Partnerships will be able to be formed from 21 December 2005, apart from in exceptional circumstances when they will be able to be formed from 5 December. These exceptional circumstances are the same as exist to enable opposite-sex couples to marry without having to wait the minimum length of time, often in cases where one partner is likely to die within a very short period of time. The Act also allows for same-sex couples who have entered legally recognised overseas relationships to be treated as civil partners in the United Kingdom from 5 December.
6. The process of entering into a civil partnership will be administered by the local registration service. On the day of registration, each member of the couple will sign in the presence of the registration officer and two witnesses.
7. There will be a formal, court-based process for dissolution of a civil partnership.
8. More information can be found on the DTI Women and Equality Unit’s website. A booklet on the subject is available and can be found at the DTI Women and Equality Unit’s website,on the civil partnership page. If you would like to order a free hard copy (or copies) of the booklet, you will need to provide your address and quote URN05/1485. Alternatively the telephone number to place your orders is - 08450150010 (again, please quote the URN number).
Application to the Police
9. The Civil Partnership Act has significant implications for the Police Pensions Regulations, these are set out below.
Police Pensions Regulations
10. Broadly, as of the 5 December 2005, all provisions available to married persons in the Police Pensions Regulations will also apply to those who formally register their civil partnership (or have already formed a recognised overseas relationship) on or after 5 December 2005, with entitlement to a pension being backdated to 6 April 1988. This is a requirement of law.
11. Government policy is to back-date the effect of the regulations to 6 April1988. This date has been agreed upon to avoid periods of historic gender discrimination. This means that a surviving civil partner’s pension will be based on the pensionable service of the officer from 6 April 1988 or later if the officer’s pensionable service does not go back that far.
12. For the purposes of the Police Pension Scheme (PPS) this means extending the provisions for surviving spouses to apply to surviving civil partners - but only back to 6 April 1988. Those women officers who up-rated their pre-1990 widowers' benefits would have that recognised for the purpose of their civil partner's survivor benefits. Please see paragraph 25 below for further details of how to calculate the survivor’s pension in the case of an officer with pensionable service pre-dating 1988 or, in the case of a woman officer who has not up-rated her pre-1990 survivor benefits, pre-dating 1990.
13. While entitlement to a surviving civil partner’s pension will be based on service from 6 April 1988, the actual pension awarded will depend on the survivor contributions made by the officer. This means that if a woman officer did not make survivor contributions between 1988 and 1990 the Guaranteed Minimum Pension applies.
14. The Civil Partnership Act has included amendments to the definitions of in-laws and step-relations so that they apply to relationships that arise as a result of a civil partnership. When the Adoption and Children Act 2002 comes into force on 30 December 2005, civil partners will be able to jointly apply to adopt a child, and acquire parental responsibility for their civil partner’s child (subject to certain conditions). All these amendments will mean that children who are dependent upon civil partners will be treated in exactly the same way as those who are dependent upon spouses.
15. Other parts of the Police Pensions Regulations (although not an exhaustive list) where the civil partnership legislation will have application are: Part E (E3A to E10), Part I, and Part K (K5 to do with forfeiture).
16. The Statutory Instrument to implement the necessary changes to the Police Pensions Regulations is still being drafted and will not be in place in time for the 5 December, but it will have retrospective effect from that date. This HOC is therefore being used to implement the main changes administratively with effect from 5 December 2005. Pensions administrators should therefore note that they must apply the provisions in this HOC with effect from 5 December.
17. There are three areas which are not straightforward and need further clarification, as follows:
Surviving civil partners’ awards
18. It is proposed to amend the rules on survivor pensions ceasing on remarriage etc. to reflect the fact that surviving civil partners must have the same pension entitlements as surviving spouses (with care being taken over the extent to which the amendment regulations affect current widows and the future widows of current pensioners).
19. The amended rules will spell out the restrictions for each of the following categories:
- existing widows and the future widows of existing pensioners
- the future surviving civil partners of existing pensioners
- the future widows and surviving civil partners of serving officers
20. For existing widows and future widows of existing pensioners (ie those widowed or retired before 5th December 2005) the entitlement to a pension will also terminate on the formation of a civil partnership. This is in line with the need for civil partnerships to have the same rights and responsibilities associated with them as marriages.
21. For surviving civil partners, there will be a provision comparable to that for future widows of existing pensioners. (There is no need for a provision that matches existing widows as civil partnerships can only be registered after 5th December 2005.) For future surviving civil partners of existing pensioners the entitlement to a survivor pension will terminate on marriage, the formation of a new civil partnership or on cohabitation as civil partners (NB “cohabitation as civil partners” is defined in the civil partnership legislation).
22. For future widows and surviving civil partners of serving officers (ie those who die in service on or after 5th December 2005) and of future pensioners (ie those retired on or after 5th December 2005) entitlement will terminate on any of the following:
- on marriage or remarriage
- formation of a civil partnership or new civil partnership
- on cohabitation as man and wife
- on cohabitation as civil partners
23. It should be noted that under the New Police Pension Scheme, from 6 April 2006, survivor pensions will be life-long. Serving officers will have the opportunity, later in 2006, to transfer to the new scheme if they wish.
Pre/Post retirement civil partnerships
24. Special care will be needed in calculating the survivor benefits of the civil partners of officers with pensionable service which goes back before 1990 or 1988.
25. Where the civil partnership was formed pre-retirement a surviving civil partner’s pension will be based on the officer’s actual service post 6 April 1988 (or 17 May 1990 if she is the civil partner of a woman who did not up-rate her survivor benefits).
26. Where the civil partnership was formed post-retirement, a surviving civil partner’s pension will be based on a fair proportion of the officer’s pensionable service. For male officers and female officers who have up-rated their survivor benefits, it is based on pensionable service which falls on or after 6 April 1988. The date changes to on or after 17 May 1990 for female officers who did not up-rate their survivor benefits.
27. This arises due to the fact that this is the current situation for widowers. The civil partnership legislation requires that where there is a case of pre-existing inequality, civil partners should only be given parity with the treatment (if any) of the less favoured spouse. This is to avoid constituting a fresh act of discrimination against the less-favoured spouse on the combined grounds of their sex and sexual orientation.
28. We realise that this seems an inequity for pre and post-retirement widowers and civil partnership formation compared with widows. It is our intention to make later amendments to the PPS to base further payments of survivor pensions upon a fair proportion of pensionable service, in cases where there is part of an officer’s service which does not attract survivor benefits.
Up-rating pre-1990 service
29. Women officers who have not up-rated their pre-1990 service so far will be given another opportunity to do this. This is since those in same-sex relationships would have had no reason to want better widowers' benefits. We propose to offer the opportunity just to serving officers to up-rate their service between 1988 and 1990 on the same basis as we did in 2003. However, we will do this later once officers are aware of the issues and we know whether there is demand for this.
Pensioners will not be able to up-rate their service between 1988 and 1990. Serving officers who want to make their pre-1988 service count for civil partners' pensions will have the option of transferring to the new Police Pension Scheme. All the pensionable service credited to a new member on admission to the new Police Pension Scheme will count for a civil partner’s survivor benefits. It is envisaged that all serving officers will have the opportunity to opt to transfer to the new scheme in the autumn of 2006.