Woolworths Group Pension Scheme transfers to Pension Protection Fund

The Woolworths Group Pension Scheme is ready to be transferred to the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), three years after the retailer became insolvent.

The scheme had more than 10,000 members and a number of legally separate employers, all of which had separate responsibilities for different tranches of members. All also become formally insolvent at different times over the period of a few months.

Other complexities faced by the scheme’s trustees in managing its wind-up included:

  • Four separate assessment dates, as well as 4,000 active members whose final settlements had yet to be calculated.
  • Some 6,000 members whose levels of benefits would have to be reduced immediately to the levels of compensation available under the PPF.
  • The increase of the statutory retirement age from 50 to 55 during the assessment period, which sparked a flurry of early retirement requests.

To assist them with this task, the trustees appointed Capita Hartshead, to which full administration was transferred.

Howard Jacobs, chair of the trustees, said: “An inherently complex winding-up was further complicated by the inevitable additional problems along the way. All of those involved over the last two, intensive years can be very pleased that the challenging timetable was met, by a combination of rigorous planning and good communication.”

Paul James, pensions operations director at Capita Hartshead, added: “The significance of what has been collectively achieved should not be underestimated. We have faced some major challenges along the way, several of which could not have been anticipated at the outset of the project.

“Through a combination of expertise, responsiveness and hard work, all stakeholders have pulled together to deliver against an extremely challenging deadline.”

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