UK - Trustees now have a further five years to act on legal requirements under section 251 of the Pensions Act 2004, the department for work and pensions confirms.
Before government amendments on its application the section appeared to prevent any payment being made to an employer out of scheme assets unless an appropriate trustee resolution was passed before 6 April 2011.
However, DWP officials confirmed the section only applies to payments of surplus from ongoing schemes and that it will extend the deadline for action to be taken by trustees until 6 April 2016.
Pensions minister Steve Webb said: "We've listened to the concerns of pensions trustees and stakeholders about section 251 and I can confirm that we will make amendments as soon as we can. We want to ensure that the provision operates in a sensible way."
Sackers associate Georgina Jones said the move gave trustees "much needed breathing space".
She added: "With a promise that legislation will be passed to amend the provision ‘when a suitable opportunity arises', we would urge that this be done sooner rather than later so that schemes have a clear basis on which to decide if and when to take action."
Allen & Overy professional support lawyer Giannis Waymouth (pictured) said: "This is excellent news. I was part of the group talking to the DWP on this. I wish the announcement had come sooner as some trustees have already done communications to members which may now not have been necessary.
"But at least those schemes which have not done so can slow down and wait for the amendments to go through. The time extension is very useful."
The DWP said it had been made aware of the concerns about section 251.
A spokeswoman explained: "A number of people believe that this provision shouldn't apply to schemes that are winding up, to money purchase schemes (with the exception of a small category known as ‘earmarked schemes'), or to any of the payments that are specifically exempted from Section 37 of the Pensions Act 1995 - routine administrative payments.
"It's not the government's intention that section 251 apply in these circumstances, and so we have committed to amending the provision in primary legislation at the next suitable opportunity.
"We intend to make it clear that section 251 does not apply to payments that would not themselves be subject to the overriding provision of section 37 of the Pensions Act 1995, and we also propose to extend the deadline for action by trustees by five years, to 6 April 2016."
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