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Pensions

first_imgIn this series we delve into the XpertHR reference manual to find essentialinformation relating to one of our features. This month’s topic…State retirement ageWomen reach state retirement age at 60 and men at 65. Between 2010 and 2020the state retirement age for women will rise gradually, and from 6 April 2020it will have reached parity with men at 65 (Pensions Act 1995, section 126).The rise in state retirement age will not affect women who were born before 6April 1950. Occupational pensionsConsiderable legislation regulates the administration of occupationalpension schemes. Specialist advice and assistance should always be soughtbefore an occupational pension scheme is set up. Be aware of the following: – Employers may not compel their employees to belong to an occupationalpension scheme. Some schemes require contributions from employees (contributory pensionschemes) and others do not (non-contributory pension schemes). Occupational pension schemes are run by trustees who hold assets on trustfor the scheme members. Discretion in how to run the scheme is conferred uponthe trustees. Members of occupational pension schemes sometimes pay additional voluntarycontributions (AVCs). These are sometimes set up under the original scheme, orunder free-standing additional voluntary contribution schemes (FSAVCs). The amount to which a retiring employee is entitled can be calculated in avariety of ways. The rules of the pension scheme will set out the method thathas been adopted. A common method is to calculate the amount due with referenceto the leaver’s final salary and his or her length of pensionable service.Another method is to calculate the amount with reference to the amount of moneypaid into the scheme by the leaver. Occupational pension schemes sometimes provide death-in-service benefits.These are usually in the form of a lump sum of about four times pensionablesalary. – Occupational pension schemes and sex discrimination In the past few years case law and legislation has evolved that relates tosex discrimination and occupational pensions. This was kick-started by thedecision of the European Court of Justice in Barber v Guardian Royal ExchangeAssurance Group (1990), IRLR 240, ECJ, to the effect that benefits underoccupational pensions constitute pay within the meaning of Article 141 of theEuropean Treaty. The significance of this decision was that it meant that the equal paylegislation must apply to occupational pensions. Personal pensionsEmployees who do not have access to occupational pensions will often payinto a personal pension because of the low level of the State Pension. Individuals earning above a certain limit cannot make contributions to theirpersonal pensions from income above the limit. Employers can offer personalpensions on a group basis as an alternative to occupational pension schemes(Group Personal Pensions). These are based on arrangements entered into between the employer and apension provider, and are administered by the pension provider. Stakeholder pensionsStakeholder pensions are a new form of personal pension regulated by theWelfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999. They are designed to meet the needs ofpeople who do not have access to an occupational pension scheme. The schemesare run by commercial pension providers. Key features of stakeholder pensions are that members must be able totransfer in to, or out of, the scheme without penalty, and contributions may beas low as £20. Since 8 October 2001, employers (other than those that are exempt) have beenrequired to designate schemes and make them available to employees. Stakeholderpension schemes must be made available to employees who earn more than thelower limit for national insurance contributions. An employer is exempt from the requirement to provide a stakeholder pensionscheme to its employees if it meets any of the following criteria: – It has fewer than five employees, including company directors and thosewho do not meet the conditions to have access to a stakeholder pension scheme.This does not include workers who are not employees – It offers employees an occupational pension scheme that is available toall staff within their first year of service – It offers a contributory personal pension scheme to all employees eligibleto join a stakeholder pension scheme (the contributions must equal at least 3per cent of basic pay). Such a scheme must contain no penalties for earlyrelease and the employer must undertake to administer contributions to thescheme. If the employee makes contributions, they must be no higher than theemployer’s contribution. – It gives some employees access to a personal pension scheme as set outabove, and the remainder access to an occupational pension scheme as set outabove. An employer need not offer a stakeholder pension scheme to all itsemployees. Those who do not qualify are: – Employees who have less than three months continuous service – Employees who are members of the occupational pension scheme or who havechosen not to join it – Employees who are not eligible for the occupational pension scheme becausethey are too young or too old – Employees who have earned less than the national insurance lower earningslimit for one or more weeks within the past three months – Employees who cannot join a stakeholder pension scheme because of InlandRevenue restrictions (for example the employee does not normally live in theUK). The duties of an employer that is required to operate a stakeholder pensionscheme include the following: – It must designate a scheme from the list of registered schemes held by theOccupational Pensions Regulatory Authority – It must consult with (but not advise) those employees who qualify for thescheme, or their representatives, about the scheme that it proposes todesignate – It must inform the scheme provider that it has chosen that scheme, andkeep the provider informed of details such as the employees’ contributionrecords and the employer’s contribution amounts – It must inform the relevant employees of the name and address of theprovider, and contact details for a named representative – It must allow the provider to have reasonable access to the workplace – It must make arrangements to deduct employee contributions and send themto the scheme provider within strict time limits (19 days after the end of themonth in which the deductions were made) – It must make payroll deductions if requested and give employees writteninformation about payroll deduction arrangements. Employees can make fixed deductions or a percentage of their net pay. Contributions to stakeholder pensions are voluntary contributions, sostatutory deductions such as tax and national insurance must be made first. – It must keep records of payments made to the provider. Legislation Pensions Act 1995 Sex Discrimination Act 1975 Key referencesEqual Pay Act 1970 Occupational Pension Schemes (Equal Access to Membership) Amendment Regulations 1995 SI 1995/1215 Occupational Pension Schemes (Equal Treatment) Regulations 1995 SI 1995/3183Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000SI 2000/1551 Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000(Amendment) Regulations 2002 SI 2002/2035 Social Security Pensions (Low Earnings Threshold) Order 2003 SI 2003/324. This is an extract from the Pay and Benefits chapter of the Xpert HRemployment law reference manual. The original chapter author was Akua Reindorf.Forthcoming Law Reports Legal Guidance News Action point checklist– Ensure that you (if not exempt)offer either an occupational pension scheme or a stakeholder pension scheme toeligible employees– Take specialist advice on how to run and administer anypension scheme.Questions and answersAre employers obliged to offer an occupational pensionscheme? No, there is no legal obligation to operate an occupationalpension scheme, although many employers choose to do so. A scheme can be set upto require contributions from employees, or can be non-contributory. Becausethere is so much legislation regulating the administration of an occupationalpension scheme, specialist legal advice should be sought before setting one up.Is it permissible for an employerto offer a pension scheme only to full-time employees? No, this would be unlawful under the Part-time Workers(Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 unless the exclusionof part-timers could be objectively justified. Furthermore, because equal paylegislation applies to occupational pensions, the exclusion of part-timers froman occupational pension scheme would be likely to constitute indirect sexdiscrimination against women. Women may also claim parity with men as regardsto benefits under an occupational scheme and the retirement ages inoccupational pension schemes should be the same for men and women performingthe same job. What options are open to employeesif their employer does not offer an occupational pension scheme? Employees without access to an occupational pension scheme canchoose to pay into a personal pension. Employers can also offer personalpensions on a group basis (Group Personal Pensions) as an alternative to anoccupational pension scheme. Alternatively, most employees are now entitled toa stakeholder pension scheme if their employer does not provide an occupationalpension scheme. What is a stakeholder pension scheme? Stakeholder pensions were introduced under the Welfare Reformand Pensions Act 1999 and are designed for employees who do not have access toan occupational pension scheme. Since 8 October 2001, employers (other thanthose that are exempt) have been required to designate schemes and make themavailable to qualifying employees. Are employers legally obliged tomake stakeholder pension schemes available to all employees? Employers with more than five employees that do not provide anoccupational pension scheme or Group Personal Pension for all employees arerequired to designate a stakeholder pension scheme. Employers must designate ascheme from a list of registered schemes held by the Occupational PensionsRegulatory Authority. CasesBarber v Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance Group, [1990], IRLR240 ECJBilka-Kaufhaus GmbH v Weber von Hartz, [1986], IRLR 317 ECJ Preston and others v Wolverhampton Healthcare NHS Trust andothers, (No2) [2001], IRLR 237 HL Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article PensionsOn 1 Dec 2003 in Personnel Todaylast_img read more