UK - Employers must consult with staff over any changes to scheme rules or wind-up plans to protect themselves against any future claims.
Pinsent Curtis Biddle’s head of pensions, Chris Mullen, said courts were now taking a “more cautious” approach to pension rights and companies were more open to claims.
He said: “The more you can show that you’ve been open and honest, the more likely you’ll be able to make changes stick. It goes back to principles of ‘good faith’.”
Mullen stressed that employees’ contractual rights must be examined when making changes to scheme rules or considering wind-ups, though the contractual rights of employees must be examined. And he pointed out that it was not just employment contracts which legally determined an employee’s pension rights.
Employers must also consider the implications of other forms of communication such as offers of employment, booklets, staff handbooks, workforce and redundancy agreements, pension statements and general announcements.
“It is not good enough to just look at contractual terms of employment.”
Mullen said two major issues which needed to be addressed were sex and age discrimination among scheme members. He predicted that both would become increasingly significant in the coming year.
He also urged departments to work together to ensure a “company-wide approach” to pensions.
“There should be a holistic approach – scheme administrators and other departments should talk to each other.”
The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has granted 11 master trusts extensions to apply for authorisation, as it confirms it has received 22 applications ahead of the 31 March deadline.
Aegon Master Trust, Fidelity Master Trust and Ensign have sent off their authorisation applications to The Pensions Regulator (TPR).
Self-administered pension funds spent £15bn on payments to pensioners in Q4 2018, but received just £12bn in contributions (net of refunds), Office for National Statistics (ONS) data reveals.
Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI) and Gresham House are to team up to form a joint venture.