Employment and pensions

Public Service Pensions Update | April 2021

Published on 26th Apr 2021

In this edition, we look at a range of developments relevant to administration, governance and investment.

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If you would like to discuss any of the developments in this newsletter, please contact one of the experts listed below.

Open consultation | Teachers' Pension Scheme

The Department for Education is consulting on draft regulations to amend the scheme to:

  • "provide female members in an opposite-sex marriage or civil partnership with the same survivor pension rights as female members in a same-sex marriage or civil partnership" (this follows the development discussed in our July 2020 newsletter); and
  • "amend participation rules relating to accepted schools to allow for the phased withdrawal of independent schools that might otherwise leave the TPS outright with immediate effect" (following the consultation response discussed in our November 2020 newsletter).

The consultation is open until 1 June 2021.

The Pensions Regulator | Climate change strategy

The Pensions Regulator has published a climate change strategy, setting out its strategic response to climate change and confirming how it will help schemes to meet the challenges presented by climate change (and what it expects of them). We discuss the strategy in our Insight.

Investment | Call for evidence on social factors

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has launched a call for evidence on the "effectiveness of … trustees’ current policies and practices in relation to social factors" (in the context of environmental, social and governance factors (ESG)) "how trustees…understand “social” factors and how they seek to integrate considerations of financially material social factors into their investment and stewardship activities". The responses will inform a review, by the DWP, of whether it needs to take action "to ensure that trustees are better able to meet their legal ESG obligations" and "to ensure both the risks and opportunities presented by social factors are adequately considered by pension schemes".

The consultation paper gives examples of social factors which could be financially material (these include company supply chains), includes links to resources which provide more information about social factors and gives some examples of how schemes can take social factors into account and/or take action in relation to them.

Funds might like to ask for a reminder of the legal duties and requirements in this area (and when, legally and practically, they can or should take account of members' views) and think about whether there is any action they can take.

Administration | Pension scams

The Pension Scams Industry Group (PSIG) has published a new version of its code of good practice on combatting pension scams, which includes a summary of the changes made since the last version.

The Pensions Regulator has released a webinar explaining why it is asking schemes to sign up to its pledge to combat pension scams and what this involves. It has also urged schemes to make sure they report suspected scams.

Guy Opperman has called on schemes to share scam data with the PSIG to help with the fight.

The Work and Pensions Committee has published its report, "Protecting pension savers—five years on from the pension freedoms: Pension scams" (summary of findings and recommendations here).

Funds might like to watch the Pensions Regulator's webinar. They might also like to discuss with their scheme administrator the action being taken in response to the new version of the code of good practice and the call to report suspected scams, and whether they should respond to the call to sign up to the regulator's pledge to combat pension scams and the call to share scam data with PSIG. They might also like to discuss signing up to the pledge (for example, what it means for governance and the way it is communicated to members) with their legal adviser.

Governance | Data and pensions dashboards

Now that the Pension Schemes Act 2021 has become law and the Pensions Dashboard Programme has published a timeline for the development of pensions dashboards, the Pensions Administration Standards Association (PASA) has released guidance suggesting actions schemes should take to prepare for pensions dashboards.

Funds might like to consider this in conjunction with PASA's new, more widely applicable, data management plan guidance.

Governance | Updated FCA guidance

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Pensions Regulator have published an updated version of their guide for employers and trustees on providing support with financial matters without needing to be subject to FCA regulation. The guide was released alongside the FCA's finalised guidance on advising on defined benefit (DB) transfers.

Funds and employing authorities might like to read the updated guide on providing members/employees with support on financial matters without straying into FCA regulated areas.  They might also check with their pensions consultant whether the finalised DB transfer guidance could affect the information they provide to members about transfers (for example, as part of information about retirement options).

Pensions Ombudsman | New factsheets

The Ombudsman has published new/updated factsheets on:

Funds might like to read these factsheets. They might also like to take legal advice on points to take care around if they are contacted by the early resolution service in a complaint.

Pensions Ombudsman | Various

The Pensions Ombudsman has:

  • Not upheld a complaint by a judicial pension scheme member about delays in transferring his additional voluntary contribution benefits to another arrangement, even though the administrator completed some actions outside of its service level agreement.
  • Not upheld a complaint by a member of the NHS pension scheme about the evidence she was required to provide before her pension benefits were put into payment.
  • Partly upheld a complaint by a member of the NHS pension scheme who had brought a successful employment tribunal claim for disability discrimination and constructive dismissal about the refusal of her request to apply, retrospectively, for an ill-health retirement pension from active status. The ombudsman also found that failure to provide an employee with information about ill health retirement in accordance with a sickness absence policy amounts to a breach of contract.

House of Commons Library briefing papers | New and updated

The House of Commons library has published or updated the following briefing papers, which might be of interest to public service pension schemes and employers:

This newsletter covers developments relating to public service pensions in England and Wales, with a focus on the Local Government Pension Scheme.

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* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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