Here is our weekly summary of key legal and regulatory developments relevant to occupational pension schemes, which you might have missed, with links for further information.
The Pensions Ombudsman (TPO) has published his 2020/21 Report and Accounts in respect of TPO and the Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman. While TPO exceeded target rates for closing cases and dealing with enquiries, there were nearly three times as many cases still open after 12 months than TPO's target figure of 10%. TPO says that this is down to the complexity of the complaints that are now being made. Complaints about "retirement benefits" topped TPO’s chart during the financial year ended 30 April 2021. This is a change from previous years, where the highest number of complaints usually related to ill health claims or, more recently, transfers. TPO notes in his report that he has reduced the time limits within which a service user may complain about the service provided by TPO. From 1 April 2021, any complaint must be made within three months of the case closing.
In its 2020-2021 Report and Accounts, The Pensions Regulator (TPR) reports good progress against most of its key performance indicators, in spite of the undeniable impact of COVID-19 on some of its plans for the year. The redeployment of staff to high-risk areas meant that regulatory initiatives (i.e. where TPR contacts a large number of schemes about a particular risk) took a back seat, but these are scheduled to resume, starting with the theme of employer distress.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has found that there were failings in the way in which the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) communicated changes to women's state pension age and has laid its report before Parliament. "After a detailed investigation, we have found that DWP failed to act quickly enough once it knew a significant proportion of women were not aware of the changes to their State Pension age. It should have written to the women affected at least 28 months earlier than it did. We will now consider the impact of these failings, and what action should be taken to address them."
Congratulations to senior associate Chris Harper for making the shortlist for Legal Professional of the Year award in the Professional Pensions Rising Star Awards 2021. Congratulations also to professional support lawyer Lynn Housecroft and director Kate Bailey, who have been shortlisted for the awards of Innovator of the Year and Most Inspiring Returner respectively in the Women in Pensions Awards 2021. Good luck to everyone who has been shortlisted in the forthcoming award ceremonies.
If you would like specific advice on any of these issues, or on anything else, please contact a member of our Pensions team.