Brainfood: Workplace rights - Sauce for the goose ...

The Civil Partnership Act came into force last month, entitling same-sex couples to register their relationships in a legal ceremony.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

By all accounts, large numbers are eager to walk down the registry-office aisle. Gay people who enter into civil partnership have the same rights and responsibilities as those who get married, which gives rise to a number of knock-on implications for employers. Most significantly, employee benefits packages now need to treat civil partners and married people in the same way. So if private healthcare is available to staff's spouses, it should be extended equally to employees' civil partners. More informal policies and practices may need to be similarly reviewed - such as granting extra leave to employees getting married or inviting husbands and wives to company social events. Civil partners treated less favourably than married persons can bring a claim for sexual orientation discrimination. The legislation has significant import for occupational pensions. Contracted-out schemes now have to provide survivor benefits for civil partners in the same way as for widows and widowers (although only in respect of deceased members' rights accrued since April 1988). Plenty of action points, then, for employers keen on civil obedience ...

- Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin solicitors, e-mail: employment@lewissilkin.com.

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