Public Service Pensions Update | May 2020

Written on 26 May 2020

Welcome to the latest edition of our Public Service Pensions Update.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, we highlight a series of pensions-related developments. We also discuss other recent developments, including around the McCloud case and new powers for the Pensions Regulator.

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

Covid-19 | Pensions development tracker

Our regular pensions development tracker lists Covid-19-related legislative and regulatory developments that are likely to be of interest to the administering and employing authorities of public service pension schemes. Since the last newsletter, we have published our third and fourth trackers. These include details of a template letter that The Pensions Regulator has said should be sent to members who ask for a quote for a defined benefit cash-equivalent transfer value.

In addition, the following developments will be of particular interest to public service pension schemes:

  • Scheme rules and detailed guidance have been published in relation to the NHS and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme 2020 (mentioned in our April 2020 newsletter). Scheme information for employers and the scheme rules can be found here. Scheme information for claimants can be found here. More general information about the scheme can be found here and here.
  • The voluntary scheme pays election deadline for members of the NHS Pension Scheme has been extended by three months, to 31 October 2020, for tax bills relating to the 2018-19 tax year. The extension has been granted to give workers dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic more time in which to make a decision. This extension will be reviewed at the end of July 2020.
  • The Local Government Association continues to update its Covid-19 news and information web page. Since 30 April, it has added information about webinars it is running on the impact of Covid-19 on Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) employers and updated its FAQs for LGPS administrators.
  • The Local Government Pension Scheme Advisory Board continues to update its dedicated Covid-19 page. Recent additions include the results of a Covid-19 cash flow survey conducted between 1 and 14 April 2020, and an invitation to take part in a survey about the impact of Covid-19 on LGPS governance.
  • The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government continues to update its dedicated Covid-19 guidance for local government.

Update | The McCloud case

On 6 May 2020, the Fire Brigades Union issued a circular in which it explained that it is "looking at potential claims relating to reimbursement of any out-of-pocket losses members may have suffered as a result of the changes made in 2015… and … a potential claim to compensate members for the distress, upset and anger – described by lawyers as 'injury to feelings' – that may have been caused" by the changes. The circular explains what members need to do to submit a claim and confirms the tight time limits that apply. It should be read with the related news item.

The Pensions Regulator | New investigatory powers

Draft regulations have been laid before Parliament which will add five new public authorities, including the Pensions Regulator, to the list of public authorities which can access "communications data" for the purpose of "where it is wholly or partly events data, preventing or detecting serious crime, and in any other case, for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or of preventing disorder". The regulator is reported to have said that it will use the new powers to help in the fight against pensions scammers.

Consultation response | Merger of two LGPS funds

In our March 2020 newsletter, we reported that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government had launched a consultation on the merger of two Local Government Pension Scheme funds: Northumberland and Tyne and Wear. On 14 May 2020, the government published a consultation response confirming that it has decided to go ahead with the merger. Regulations have been laid to give effect to the merger.

Teachers' pension grant | 2020-21 year

The Education and Skills Funding Agency has published and updated the Teachers' pension employer contribution conditions of grant for April 2020 to March 2021 and the grant allocations for April to August 2020.

Pensions Ombudsman | Ill health and special class status

The Pensions Ombudsman has reached a decision in relation to the Local Government Pension Scheme which contains a helpful reminder of some of the key principles that apply in ill health early retirement cases. He has also upheld a complaint relating to special class status in the NHS Pension Scheme.

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:

Other developments | Q3 2020 pensions action plan

We have released our Q3 2020 pensions action plan. Each action plan is a summary of changes and proposals in pensions law and regulation over the last quarter, most of which are also relevant to public sector pension schemes.