UK - The news yesterday that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had announced a 10-day consultation period on the new age discrimination regulations has sparked an outcry among industry players.
David Bateman, DWP head of EU and international pension policy, yesterday put out a consultation document that stated, if the DWP did not clarify age regulations and include further exemptions, there was a danger schemes would simply decide the legal and financial risks of continuing certain practices were too great."
He said interested parties could send comments to the DWP up until the 20th October, and it is that short window of opportunity that has raised the ire of many people.
Joanne Livingstone, principal at Punter Southall, said: "With only a 10 day period for consultation, the clock is ticking for the industry to spot as many errors as possible in time. This... is not the right way to introduce complex legislation."
Jennie Kreser, senior partner at law firm Thomas Eggar, pointed out: "By the time the results of the consultation are known, and by the time any redrafting of the regulations has been done we will already be in November.
"Unless the Pension Regulator uses its power to waive the consultation requirements, employers will then need to consult on any changes to scheme rules that will be required at least two months prior to their implementation."
Batemen attributed the brief consultation period to the need for regulations to be brought into force before 2 December in order to comply with a European directive.
Faith Dickson, partner at Sacker & Partners LLP, also commented on the timing, which she said was "still a big issue" since schemes needed to comply by 1 December 2006.
Dickson also spoke about the draft changes themselves: "While the draft changes are welcome, the big policy issues remain - like what benefits to offer people who continue working beyond normal retirement date, and whether or not to offer flexible retirement".
The complexity of the regulations was criticised by Kreser and Livingstone, with Kreser calling them "practically unworkable" and Livingstone claiming "every version brings with it some small improvements but swathes of additional complexity".
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