Same-sex couples must be given equal employee marriage benefits

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Employees who enter into a civil partnership with a partner of the same sex must be granted the same benefits upon their marriage as those granted to their colleagues, the European Court of Justice has ruled.

The court noted that this was necessary where marriage was not possible for homosexual couples and said that the refusal to grant them those benefits constituted direct discrimination based on sexual orientation.

However, it was agreed that this did not apply to pension rights for surviving spouses.

The ruling came in the French case of Hay v Crédit Agricole, where Mr Hay, who had entered into a PACS arrangement (civil solidarity pact) with his same-sex partner, was refused benefits on the ground that, under the collective agreement, they were granted only upon marriage.

These benefits included days of special leave and a salary bonus to employees on the occasion of their marriage.

The PACS arrangement was the only possibility under French law for same-sex couples to procure legal status for their relationship which could be certain and effective against third parties.

The Court held that the collective agreement operating at Credit Agricole, which provided for paid leave and a bonus for employees who married but was not possible for persons of the same sex, was direct discrimination against homosexual employees in a PACS arrangement.

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