Pensions developments tracker

Written on 27 Apr 2020

This tracker is a summary of the legal and regulatory developments arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic which will be of interest to the trustees and employers of occupational pension schemes. The tracker will be updated on a regular basis throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. This version relates to developments between 17 and 23 April 2020.

How to use the tracker: The tracker is divided into different subjects. The column on the left-hand side of the table shows whether the development applies to defined benefit schemes (DB), defined contribution schemes (DC) or both (All). You can access the insights, guidance and other documents that are named in orange by clicking on them.

If you would like advice on any of the points raised in this tracker, please get in touch with your usual Osborne Clarke contact: Jonathan Hazlett (Head of Pensions) or Jennifer Alldridge (Senior Knowledge Lawyer).

Covid-19-related schemes, legislation and business insights

Schemes
 All

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

On 20 April 2020, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS) went live. Employers can now use an online portal to claim 80% of furloughed employees' wages (subject to a cap of £2,500 per employee) plus related National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment pension contributions.

To help employers to work out how much they can claim, HMRC has published and updated detailed guidance and an online calculator tool. It has also updated its guidance for employers and employees and published a step-by-step guide for employers.

Employers might like to read our recent Insights on the Treasury Direction, the further guidance and some remaining questions. They should also note the technical guidance released by the Pensions Regulator on 20 April 2020.

Clients might like to ask their usual Osborne Clarke contact for our employment team's frequently asked questions (FAQ) guide on the JRS and to talk to us about how the scheme fits with pensions and death in service benefits.

Legislation
All There are no new developments this week.
Business insights
All

Insights, webinars and briefings

Employers might like to look at our wide range of business insights and webinars on broader legal issues relating to the Covid-19 pandemic. These relate to areas such people and workforces, contracts (including force majeure and material adverse change events), corporate, real estate, dispute resolution (including impact on courts and tribunals), finance and funding, insolvency, competition and state aid, and regulation and compliance. You can also access our business guide and sign up for our regular Covid-19 legal briefing.

Employer clients might like to ask their usual Osborne Clarke contact for our FAQ guide for employers.

Trustee clients might like to ask their usual Osborne Clarke contact for our governance checklist for trustees and template business continuity plan

Regulatory and industry bodies

The Pensions Regulator - Guidance for employers
DC

Covid-19: Automatic enrolment and pension contributions

On 17 April 2020, The Pensions Regulator (TPR) updated its guidance for employers in relation to automatic enrolment and the payment of pension contributions. The note confirms that employers' auto-enrolment duties continue to apply. It also gives additional guidance in relation to the JRS, including details of an easement for employers (until 30 June 2020) on the requirement to consult before reducing employer pension contributions. Employers who are considering such a change will also need to take legal advice

DC

Covid-19 technical guidance for large employers: DC pension contributions

On the same date, TPR published technical guidance on DC pension contributions for large employers. This guidance, which includes worked examples, will be helpful for employers who operate a salary sacrifice arrangement for pension contributions and or to certifiy alternative basis automatic enrolment compliance.

The Pensions Regulator – Guidance for trustees
DC

Covid-19: DC scheme management and investment

On 17 April 2020, TPR updated its guidance for trustees on investment and scheme management. In particular, the guidance now includes a section to help trustees in cases where the employer is asking to reduce its DC contributions.

The Pensions Regulator – Guidance for providers
All There are no new developments this week.
The Pensions Regulator – Other
All

Avoiding pension scams

TPR published some guidance highlighting the steps trustees, administrators, advisers and employers can take to help members to avoid being scammed. The web page includes downloadable resources.

The Pension Protection Fund
All

Avoiding fraudulent communications

On 22 April 2020, the PPF released a short article to help members to identify fraudulent communications and tell whether a communication has really come from the PPF.

The Pensions Ombudsman
All

Service update

The Pensions Ombudsman's office has confirmed that as from 22 April 2020, it will be accepting new online applications and e-mail enquiries and its telephone lines will be open Monday to Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. It is not able to accept post.

The Department for Work and Pensions
All There are no new developments this week.
The Financial Conduct Authority
All

Wet-ink signature requirements

On 20 April 2020, the FCA confirmed its position in relation to "wet-ink" signatures.

HMRC
 All

Salary sacrifice

On 9 April 2020, HMRC updated its guidance for employers on salary sacrifice to confirm that changes in an employee's financial circumstances as a result of Covid-19 could be regarded as a "lifestyle change" which would allow the employee to opt out of a salary sacrifice arrangement.

Money & Pensions Service
All There are no new developments this week.
Pensions Administration Standards Association and the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association
 All

Statement on extension of RPI consultation deadline

The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) released a statement on 17 April 2020 supporting the decision to extend the consultation period in HM Treasury and the UK Statistics Authority's consultation on changes to the Retail Prices Index. The consultation, which was originally due to close on 22 April 2020, will now close on 21 August 2020.

 All

Company employee practices

On 22 April 2020, the PLSA released a blog post encouraging investors to continue considering environmental, social and governance factors in their investee companies during the Covid-19 pandemic. This includes the importance of maintaining fair pay practices, proper capital allocation and health and safety.

The Information Commissioner's Office
All

There are no new developments this week.

The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS)
All

New webpage

The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) has published a new page on its website giving information on Covid-19 and pensions. The page includes guidance for members and an FAQ section including questions such as: "how is the current situation affecting my pension provider/scheme administrator?"; "what happens to my pension contributions if I’ve been furloughed?"; and "what happens to my pension if my business/employer goes bust?".