Walker v Innospec Ltd [2017] UKSC 47 centres on an exemption in para 18 of sched 9 to the Equality Act 2010 and its incompatibility with EU law.

Walker sought confirmation from Innospec that, in the event of his death, the pension he had accrued during his employment there (1980-2003) would be paid to his husband (then-partner). Innospec refused to provide this confirmation.

The basis for Innospec's refusal was the Civil Partnership Act 2004's provision that Walker and his partner would have the same pension rights as heterosexual spouses, but only going forward from 5 December 2005. Past pension rights were excluded – a position reflected in the Equality Act 2010. Innospec's refusal to pay Walker's husband the full spouse's pension meant that he would receive a pension of £1,000 per annum rather than £45,000.

The Supreme Court unanimously decided that the exemption in the Equality Act 2010 was incompatible with the EU Framework Directive and must be disapplied. Consequently, in the event of Walker's death, his husband will be entitled to the full spouse's pension (provided they remain married).

This decision is likely to have a huge impact on the financial implications of pension schemes which do not currently provide same-sex partners with identical benefits to heterosexual married couples. These providers now need to take action to ensure they are not discriminating, with the DWP estimating the cost of retrospective equalisation of entitlement at £100 million for private sector schemes and £20 million for public sector schemes.