In November 2020 the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform issued Circular 18/2020 to Government Departments which seeks to address a specific pension difficulty for some couples in same sex marriages/civil partnerships.

            Under the terms of the original1 Spouses’ & Children’s Pension Scheme (introduced for men in 1969 and for women in 1981) teachers who were single at the time of retirement were refunded their contributions to the spouses’ scheme by the DES. If they married when retired and subsequently predeceased their spouse, there was no provision for the payment by the DES of a spouse’s pension.

            Some teachers in committed same sex relationships reached retirement age before such relationships were legally recognised in Ireland2. As they were deemed ‘single’ at the time of retirement their contributions to the spouse’s scheme were refunded by the DES and their membership of the spouse’s scheme ceased.

Circular 18/2020 seeks to address this anomaly by allowing teachers to join/re-join the spouse’s scheme provided: that the teacher was in a committed same sex relationship at the time of his/her retirement; that he/she formalised the relationship within 3 years of being legally able to do so2; and that the relevant contributions to the scheme are paid/repaid.

While the terms of the circular might only a small number of retirees, the financial protection provided by membership of a spouse’s pension scheme is a significant benefit.



1The ‘Revised’ spouses’ scheme introduced in 2005 and the ‘Single’ scheme introduced in 2013 provide for the payment of a spouse’s pension irrespective of whether a marriage/civil partnership takes place before/after retirement.

2Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 (Commenced 11 January 2011)