The Pensions Regulator takes tough new approach

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25 February, 2020

Rosalind Leahy

The Pensions Regulator has come under criticism lately following the BHS and Carillion scandals, and has recently announced that they would be 'upping their game' by becoming 'clearer, quicker and tougher'. The draft Pensions Schemes Bill currently making its way through Parliament would provide the Regulator with the power to have a greater impact in the sector.

The proposed Bill introduces the potential for individuals to acquire criminal responsibility for two new offences, punishable by up to 7 years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. These offences are:

  • The avoidance of a debt due under s.75 of the Pensions Act 1995. This offence potentially occurs when an individual does and act (or fails to act) which prevents such a debt becoming due or reduces the amount of such a debt which would otherwise become due; and
  • Committing an act (or failure to act) which 'detrimentally affects in a material way the likelihood of accrued scheme benefits being received'. The individual must have known or ought to have known that the act would have that effect, and not have a reasonable excuse.

The offences could encompass a wide range of behaviour and there has been industry concern about the effects of the proposed legislation. Concern has also been raised in the House of Lords to this effect. As such, it is possible that the draft legislation may be amended although the position is not clear at the current time.

The draft legislation also proposes an extension to the notifiable events regime, with the list of notifiable events to be extended. Additionally, notification will need to include detail of the potential impact on pension schemes and any steps taken to mitigate the prospective effects.

All eyes remain on Parliament awaiting an update regarding the proposed changes. But with Brexit and the associated Transition Period a pressing concern for the Government it is unlikely that any immediate progress will be made. Time will tell.

For more information contact Rosalind Leahy in our Employment & HR department via email or phone on 01772 220185. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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