The pensions ombudsman (PO) has dismissed a complaint against Johnson Controls that they did not grant a member an unreduced early retirement pension.
Valerie Layfield had complained to PO Anthony Arter (pictured) that her previous employer Johnson Controls and its trustees withheld consent to her unreduced early retirement pension.
In August 2002, Layfield was made redundant at the age of 47, and became a deferred member.
The scheme rules stated that if a member retired before the normal retirement date and after their 50th birthday, they could be granted an immediate annual pension - but only at the consent of the company.
Following equalisation of the retirement age of 65 for both men and women, the scheme rules were changed to state that pensions would be reduced by 0.3% for each month they retire before age 60.
However, if the member were made redundant while a member of the scheme pensions would be reduced by 0.3% for each month they retire before the age of 55.
In 2011, at the age of 57, Layfield applied for early retirement. The trustees approved her application and wrote to inform her that she would receive an actuarially reduced pension.
However, Layfield wrote to scheme administrators Hewitt Associates, who were later acquired by Aon to query the reduction. Aon responded saying that the employers were not prepared to consent to her request for an unreduced early retirement because it placed a funding strain on the scheme and their resources.
The determination states the redundancy terms applicable only apply to members who actually retired at the time they were made redundant. As her redundancy occurred some years ago, and at an age when she would not qualify the rule does not apply.
In his conclusion, ombudsman Arter said that as Layfield was made redundant at the age of 47, she would not have been entitled to an immediate pension and as she later chose to retire voluntarily.
He concluded that the employer was right to not allow Layfield to receive an unreduced early pension.
He said: "It is clear that the employer is entitled to have regards to their own interests when exercising discretion, which includes their own financial interests.
"Johnson Controls has said that the reason for withholding consent was because it placed a funding strain on the scheme and their resources.
"I am therefore unable to find that application of the policy constitutes any breach of duty or maladministration on their part causing injustice to Layfield."
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