EB Comment: Can you afford to help fund Brown’s windfall on A-Day

It is unlikely that any employer in the UK is going to escape untouched by the law changes. Even if you expect your advisers to take care of the technical pensions side, you will need to work out which of your staff you need to talk to, and find out whether any employment contracts need re-negotiating. A stumbling block at the moment is that some providers have not worked out how they plan to adapt their offering. This is concerning, especially if you realise that in order to give the first batch of retirees after 6 April 2006 several months notice of what will happen when they become pensioners, it will be necessary to send out information packs as early as the autumn of this year. Other groups of employees will also need forewarning several months in advance, in order for them to make decisions and take advice in time. High earners are an obvious category because they will be heavily affected by the cap, but so will those who are soon expected to move to high level positions and those current members that were in your pension scheme prior to 1988. So step one is to identify all those who need to make decisions about their pension, and let them know about it. Failure to do so may mean that many will not be aware that they can protect their pensions savings before A-Day next April. One financial advisory firm predicts that the government could receive a £8.25 billion tax windfall from those employees who did not get their act together in time. A number of pensions experts have also been warning employers to talk to their advisers as soon as possible. This is because many organisations are likely to leave things until later in the year, by which stage advisers will be hard-pressed to help everyone. One consultant told us that there are simply not enough advisers to meet demand. In November, Employee Benefits started to run a regular pensions legislation section devoted to the issues that HR and benefits managers need to consider (or ask their pensions advisers about) in the run up to A-Day. To date we have looked at aspects such as flexible retirement, employment contracts and protection, this month we discuss the impact on added voluntary contributions. Last month I had the pleasure of judging some of the categories for the Employee Benefits Awards 2005. It was noteworthy that just one entrant in the pensions category had based their new pensions strategy on the incoming simplification rules. Perhaps that was because the final details were only unveiled late last year and that many employers felt they couldn’t make major decisions on their pensions strategy earlier. Hopefully there will be enough time to make effective and long lasting decisions.