Given the complexity of pensions, trust, and tax law there may be times when pension scheme members are concerned or dissatisfied with the way the scheme is being run or the way their pension is being calculated.
How can Vialex help?
Vialex can assess the issues that are in dispute and help try and resolve these at an early stage before a formal complaint is made. If that is not possible, we can advise scheme members on raising complaints under their scheme’s internal dispute resolution (IDR) procedures and/or with the Pensions Ombudsman and can advise employers and the managers or trustees of the pension scheme on defending these.
We can also assist occupational pension schemes in putting in place appropriate IDR procedures or reviewing existing ones.
Internal Dispute Resolution
There are some exceptions, but most occupational pension schemes must put in place IDR procedures to resolve complaints between scheme members and the managers or trustees of their scheme. Other individuals may also be able to lodge a complaint, including the widow(er), surviving civil partner or surviving dependants of scheme members and prospective scheme members.
The managers or trustees have some flexibility about the process to follow, but their scheme’s IDR procedures must comply with certain minimum standards set out in the legislation.
The process may be divided into two-stages with an initial complaint being reviewed by a named contact and an appeal thereafter to the managers or trustees. Alternatively, a single-stage process may be used in which case the complaint would be determined directly by the scheme’s managers or trustees.
Although there is no time limit specified within which the managers or trustees must issue their decision the Pensions Regulator expects that decisions would be made within four months of the date a complaint was made. In the case of a two-stage process that would be four months for each of the stages.
The Pensions Ombudsman
The Pensions Ombudsman may investigate disputes and complaints of maladministration against the managers or trustees of UK pension schemes, including personal pensions. However, before accepting a complaint it is expected that all other options to resolve the dispute have been exhausted, including the scheme’s IDR procedures if these are relevant.
The Ombudsman may also investigate complaints against other advisers involved in the administration of pension schemes, as well as complaints raised by the employers and the managers or trustees of the schemes themselves.
The Pensions Ombudsman will first appoint a case worker to determine if the complaint is within its jurisdiction, including whether it is within the specified time limits.
Thereafter the parties will be asked to provide written submissions setting out their case; the Pensions Ombudsman may sometimes take evidence at oral hearings, but this is unusual.
Once the investigation has concluded the Pensions Ombudsman will issue a determination setting out its decision and the reasons for this. If either party is dissatisfied with the determination an appeal may made to the courts.
For further information please contact Steven Dunn or Scott Moncur (details below).