Exclusive: Aviva apologises to gay customer for assuming they will be in a straight marriage

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

PinkNews Exclusive. Insurance company Aviva has apologised to a gay customer for assuming he would be in a heterosexual marriage at the point where he draws his pension.

David Clark, from Clapham, south London, told PinkNews.co.uk that he had received his annual statement, which said: “We’ve also assumed that you’ll be married when you take your pension and that your wife will be 3 years younger than you.

“So if you die before your wife, but after you’ve retired, 50% of your pension will be paid to her for her lifetime.”

Mr Clark expressed his dismay at Aviva’s wording in the statement, telling PinkNews.co.uk: “I was really shocked when I was reading my pension statement and it said that.

“It just shows while we have legal equality we still need to fight for our rights and for our love to be recognised in day to day life.”

Aviva has apologised to Mr Clark and has said that it will be reviewing its wording after complaints from several customers. It also confirmed that its “occupational pensions are treated the same for same-sex relationships as they are for heterosexual relationships”.

The company told PinkNews.co.uk: “We appreciate that an illustration based on a married couple may not fit everyone’s circumstances and we are in the process of changing this.

“We understand the concerns some people may have about the wording on illustrations, and would like to reassure customers that illustrations do not influence the pension benefit that someone actually receives at retirement.

“Anyone with a defined contribution pension, whether a personal pension or an occupational pension, has the right to choose what sort of pension suits them at retirement.

“For example, if they buy an annuity, they can include a partner (of the same or opposite sex) or they can buy one for a single person.”

Earlier this week, Aviva group brand manager Jan Gooding was appointed as the new chairwoman of gay rights charity Stonewall.

Aviva treats its occupational pension schemes equally for heterosexual and same-sex customers.

But the Equality Act 2010 contains a loophole allowing for private occupational pension schemes to ignore years of contributions by gay employees and limit survivor benefits for civil partners.

A succession of MPs and peers from all sides of the political divide pressed the case for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act for England and Wales to close the loophole ahead of Royal Assent last year.

But the government resisted the demand and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) warned that the cost of equalising pensions would be £18 million.

DWP subsequently announced a review of the imbalance. It will report later this year.

In February, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in London ruled that pension schemes can discriminate against same-sex couples.

It’s reversed a previous decision requiring pension contributions between heterosexual married couples and those in civil partnerships to be the same.

EAT was presiding over the case of a former cavalry officer, John Walker, who took chemical firm Innospec to court after a 23-year career with the company.

The dispute arose after it refused to pay his civil partner the equivalent of a full widower’s pension in the event of his death.