The Laura Ashley Retirement Benefits Scheme is expected to enter Pension Protection Fund (PPF) assessment after the textile designer filed for administration today.
The final salary scheme, which also offers defined contribution (DC) savings, is the first major scheme thought to be seeking lifeboat fund support amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Although the PPF could not comment on individual cases, a spokesperson said: "We would however, like to reassure our members and those in schemes protected by us that, despite the current economic uncertainty, we are well placed to provide support for as long as they need it."
They added: "While the current market turmoil is highly challenging, we remain confident our sustainable funding strategy and diverse investment approach ensures we are well equipped to weather the current market volatility and future challenges."
The lifeboat fund had £6.1bn of reserves to support stressed schemes as of last year.
Laura Ashley said the outbreak of Covid-19 has had "an immediate and significant impact on trading" and that, based on revised cashflow forecasts, the company no longer expected to secure loans in "a timely manner".
All available options have been "explored", the firm said, and it has now filed for administration.
The pension scheme had an estimated actuarial deficit of £15m and a funding level of 76% as of last June, although around two-thirds of assets were invested in equities suggesting recent market falls may impact the funding level significantly.
The trustees had previously "provisionally agreed to de-risk the investments" to around 40% in growth and alternative assets, 20% in liability-driven investments, and the remaining 40% in cashflow-driven investments. This new strategy was expected to be implemented "in the coming few months" from September last year.
Separately, Dixon Carphone announced it would close all 531 of its standalone Carphone Warehouse stores at a cost of 2,900 jobs. The business said the move was not due to Covid-19. The pension scheme is not affected.
The PPF's recommendations for schemes on coronavirus
The PPF has called on schemes to take notice of its practical tips to "help trustees to prepare for the unexpected".
The lifeboat fund's Contingency planning for employer insolvency guide is designed to help trustees who think their employer is in trouble, with a risk the scheme could soon enter PPF assessment.
Such tips include ensuring the scheme's bank account is entirely separated from the sponsor to ensure payments can continue to be made in an insolvency event. Failure to ringfence the scheme funds can mean scheme bank accounts can be frozen alongside the company's in an insolvency.
Schemes also need to ensure payroll information is accessible, and that a communications plan for members and the media is agreed in preparation.
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