Civil Partnership update

Posted: 8th November 2011

The status of a civil partner is comparable with that of a spouse, so employers must treat married employees and civil partner employees in the same way. For example, an employer who makes a benefit available to the spouse of an employee (such as private health care) must make the same benefit available to an employee’s civil partner. An employer who treats a civil partner less favourably than a married person in similar circumstances runs the risk that the employee will succeed in a claim for discrimination.

The law makes it clear that more favourable benefits, such as pension survivor benefits, can be conferred on civil partners and married persons to the exclusion of others who do not have such a status. The exemption allowing married people to be awarded more favourable benefits remains in respect of service which predates the introduction of the Civil Partnership Act, however.
The civil partner of a person with a child under six years old, or a disabled child under 18, also has the right to request flexible working arrangements. The employer has a duty to consider seriously the request by the employee to change his or her working pattern.
The civil partner of the mother of a child is entitled to receive statutory paternity pay and to take statutory paternity leave in respect of that child. Where civil partners adopt a child together, one partner is entitled to take adoption leave and receive statutory adoption pay and the other can take paternity leave and receive statutory paternity pay.
In addition, all employees are entitled to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to deal with emergencies involving a dependant and not to be dismissed or victimised for doing so. The emergency must involve a dependant who is a child, parent, husband, wife, partner or other household member or somebody for whom the employee has primary caring responsibility. This right also includes civil partners.