Corporate activity impacting on occupational pension schemes requires specialist advice.
Where deficits are concerned, risks and liabilities need to be identified and negotiated and the Pensions Regulator takes a keen interest. New powers under the Pensions Act 2004 enable the Regulator to pursue companies and individuals whose activities might impact adversely on a pension scheme deficit, and to require third party guarantees if the scheme's sponsoring employer is insufficiently resourced. As a result, Regulator clearance has become an important aspect of many deals.
Pension scheme funding is a key issue for businesses with defined benefit occupational pension schemes. The minimum funding requirement is being phased out and a stricter funding basis is being introduced, overseen by the Pensions Regulator. Deficits need to be managed and surpluses are also subject to a legal framework. We can help.
We advise on the legislative framework for pensions and the associated codes of practice and guidance. Key legislation includes the Pensions Acts and regulations, the Finance Acts in so far as they relate to pensions rights (A day), the age discrimination regulations and cross-border provisions.
We deal with a wide variety of contractual or trust based disputes over occupational pension schemes. These cover (among other things) discrepancies between the scheme rules and member booklets, disputes as to membership, rectification of trust documents, claims for early retirement on ill-health grounds and claims relating to HM Customs and Revenue benefits restrictions.
Any professional can be accused of negligence, but we are generally concerned with allegations against financial or investment advisers, accountants and stockbrokers. Among other things, we deal with alleged failures to give suitable advice or execute transactions, or to properly structure or manage a fund. We will act for the professional or for the individual business or trustees alleging negligence.
In these days of increasing longevity, defined benefits are becoming increasingly expensive to fund. Coupled with increased regulation of defined benefit occupational pension schemes in particular, many employers are looking for simpler alternatives with less cost volatility. We advise trustees and employers on the pensions and employment law implications of changes to pension arrangements and on appropriate new scheme documentation.
We draft and update trust deeds and rules (for defined benefit (including final salary and CARE) and defined contribution occupational pension schemes (including SSASs)) and related deeds (e.g. amendment, participation, appointment and/or removal of trustees etc) and advise on appropriate wording for other employee documentation, such as scheme booklets and employment contracts.
Pension scheme administration can be a burden and merging two schemes run by the same employer could be a way forward. In such circumstances the trustees and employer may require separate advice to understand the implications for member benefits and funding.
We advise on the trustee appointment process (including requirements for member nominated trustees) and can help trustees to understand and fulfil their duties and statutory obligations. We would be happy to discuss trustee training needs and offer bespoke training.
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