Debi O’Donovan, editor of Employee Benefits: Acquisition targets need protection on pensions

News has emerged that leading pension schemes have asked The Takeover Panel to ensure that acquiring companies take account of a target company’s retirement plan when making a bid.

In recent years, it has become common practice for acquiring companies to make themselves fully aware of a target company’s pension obligations, as we explain in this month’s special supplement on reward and benefits during a merger or acquisition. However, the new demand from the likes of ICI Pensions takes a new angle and would require the acquiring company to state its intentions towards employees of the target firm and to give those staff an opportunity to express their views.

Although such a move could derail takeovers or make them more expensive, most benefits managers are likely to applaud such protection for workplace pensions.

Another area that touches on the issue of openness and transparency that reward managers need to keep an eye on is the incoming Bribery Act 2010. Although, at first glance, it might not appear to be something that would affect reward policies, on closer inspection there could be a role here for reward managers. Our cover story this month explores how an employer’s reward strategy can shape employee behaviours and help to mitigate a culture, or potential culture, of bribery.

Even if there appears no cause for concern, no reward manager wants to do a (Fifa president) Sepp Blatter and declare: “Crisis, what crisis?” as all around them are making bribery accusations.

Dealing with bribery will be especially tricky ground for those working on global business strategies, be it sales, reward or procurement, as attitudes towards various levels of bribery vary from country to country.

As I learned during my visit to WorldatWork’s Total Rewards 2011 conference in the US recently, there are plenty of commonalities across countries, but employers and their reward managers need to be sensitive to local attitudes and traditions. Obviously, this does not mean leaving bad practice unchallenged, but it does mean going in with an open mind.

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