Category Archives: Employer news

Obtaining I R M P opinions during the pandemic

The Local Government Association has received queries about obtaining opinions from Independent Registered Medical Practitioners (I R M Ps) during the current crisis. The Association of Local Authority Medical Advisers (A L A M A), confirmed that ill health applications should continue to progress during the pandemic and published the following statement:

“During the current COVID-19 crisis, it is important to continue to progress ill health retirement applications. It is also particularly important that assessments remain fair and reasonable, and that should include requesting GP and specialist reports as required. There has never been a requirement for these assessments to be face to face, therefore paperwork reviews, with telephone clarification if needed, is the most appropriate way to progress these.

If it is not possible to get reports, an assessment should be based on whether reports are likely to influence your decision further, and whether you have enough objective evidence to make an opinion. Opinions should always be ‘on balance of probability’. There will be times when you simply don’t have sufficient objective evidence to support ill health retirement, and you have been unable to get clinical reports. You should suggest that the applicant requests copies of clinical reports direct from their GP.”

Employers and administering authorities may experience delays in obtaining an I R M P’s opinion in relation to an ill health retirement application or a Tier 3 ill health review. Any such delay could affect the date from which an ill health pension is payable, or the date that a Tier 3 pension is upgraded to Tier 2. To help them make their decisions, employers and administering authorities may wish to ask I R M Ps to include in their report information about any delays due to COVID-19 that have affected the member’s application.

LGA LGPS Corona Virus Webinar

The LGA Pensions Team recently ran a 30 to 40 minute Zoom webinar aimed at LGPS employers. The webinar covered employer issues that have arisen due to the coronavirus pandemic and the Government measures put in place in their response.

A recording of a previous session is now available for viewing and can be found at the following link;- LGA webcast

McCloud judgement (UPDATE)

As you will be aware, the Government has confirmed that the McCloud judgment applies to all public service pension schemes. Despite this, we are aware that companies are actively encouraging members of these schemes to lodge costly claims. The pensions challenge website is one example of this.

It is important that members are made aware that if they qualify for protection it will apply automatically. They do not need to make an employment tribunal claim. Please communicate this to your employees.

Covid-19 employer FAQ’s

The LGA have created a series of FAQ’s in relation to the current Covid-19 virus.  The latest version can be found here

Draft Pension Administration Strategy (PAS) document for consultation.

Over the last few months a review has been conducted of the Pension Administration Strategy (PAS) which has been in place since 1st April 2015. The review has been carried out in accordance with regulation 59 of the Local Government Pension Regulations and follows the 2018 restructure of Peninsula Pensions, changes to LGPS regulations, advances in technology and improvements to performance monitoring. The review also reflects the growth in membership and demands of Scheme members and employers.

The draft PAS documents have been reviewed by the Devon Pension Board and the Investment & Pension Fund Committee’s for both the Devon and the Somerset Funds and we now intend to consult with all Scheme Employers.

Please can you review the relevant draft strategy document below and respond with any comments or suggestions to peninsulaemployers@devon.gov.uk quoting “Consultation on Devon PAS” or “Consultation on Somerset PAS” in the subject heading by 19th January 2020.

Draft Devon Fund Pension Administration Strategy

Draft Somerset Fund Pension Administration Strategy

Written Statement on Cost Cap Process

Further to the proposed regulation changes outlined in January’s edition of Pensions Line and at the PLOG’s last week, we have received the following email from the Scheme Advisory Board:

The Government has today published a written statement which announces a pause in the cost cap process for public service pension schemes pending the outcome of the application to appeal the McCloud case to the Supreme Court. A copy of the judgement can be found here 

The statement can be found here

Although the statement gives no timescales for the outcome of this case we understand it could be late 2019 or early 2020 before we know.

The LGPS Advisory Board (SAB) will now consider whether, given this announcement, it should withdraw the benefit change recommendations made to MHCLG as a result of its own cost cap process.

We understand that the LGPS could, if McCloud is upheld, be required to make changes to the underpin and that such changes would need to be taken into account in a revised SAB cost cap result.

In taking a view, the SAB will be aware that delaying benefit changes to possibly 2020 while backdating them to April 2019 would constitute a significant administrative burden on administering authorities and employers. Although SAB will immediately start considering next steps it should be stated that even if the SAB wishes to press on any changes to benefits can only be made with the agreement of Government.

Therefore although administering authorities may wish to continue to prepare for the SAB recommended cost cap benefit changes (as set out in our email of the 21st December) they should not anticipate their implementation unless and until such time as MHCLG formally consult on them.

We will naturally keep you updated as we hear more.

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A reminder

Posted on by Shirley Cuthbert

Just to remind you that you do not need to issue your new employees with a Transfer-in Request form or an Expression of Wish form as both forms are part of our Starter Pack. This means that a new member will receive these automatically within a couple of weeks of their pension record being created.

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Retirement Processes Leaflet

Posted on by Shirley Cuthbert

There is a new Retirement Process Leaflet available on our website which you can issue to your employees who are retiring which sets out the timescales involved to help manage their expectations.

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Annual Benefits Statements

Posted on by Shirley Cuthbert

Thank you all for your usual co-operation with the year end process. Annual Benefit Statements have now been issued to scheme members directly or through Member Self Service (MSS). Next year, we are considering sending all statements directly to members’ home addresses (for those who still wish to receive the paper copies) which may mean a bulk data cleansing exercise for us to ensure we hold the correct data,  but we will be in touch in due course.  In the meantime, please let your employees know that they can access their pension information by registering for MSS here.

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Update on Exit Payments

Posted on by Shirley Cuthbert

Unfortunately, there is no further news on the Exit Cap but a recent Local Government Association Bulletin confirms a consultation is still awaited. The update can be found here.

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Pensions Discretions Policy

Posted on by Shirley Cuthbert

Recent advice from the Local Government Association has set out clarification on the employer approach to setting discretion policies. It is important that a discretions policy should show the basis on which a scheme employer will consider exercising the discretions listed and in doing so not fetter their decision. In other words, the policy should not be so rigid or restrictive to prevent flexibility where a situation requires it. We do have some guidance to help with setting policies on our website and we will also be discussing this topic at the Employer PLOG meetings in January.

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New Employer Forms

Posted on by Shirley Cuthbert

Following feedback from some of you, we have re-designed our Leavers, Flexible Retirement Leaver and Estimate Request forms to hopefully make them easier to understand. The forms now follow a ‘if yes, go to section….’ format and ensures we capture everything we need to process your employee’s benefits. The new forms will be available for you to use on our website from 2nd October 2017.

We also plan to launch a spreadsheet which will help work out the pensionable pay needed to calculate the pre-2014 final salary benefits – so watch out on our website.

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Employer Self Service – Update

Posted on by Shirley Cuthbert

With effect from 1st October 2017, you will be able to inform us of a new member via an automatic Starter Form which has been developed within Employer Self Service (ESS). This will mean there is no longer a need to access the Starter form via our website, download it and send the completed version to our secure mailbox or post a paper copy. You will simply be able to complete all the fields on the screen. Press submit and the data will be sent directly to our system as a file and then we can upload it automatically. A user guide is available on our website here and you can access ESS here.

This facility is designed for individual notifications only so if you currently use interfaces to inform us of bulk starters, please continue to do so.

Reporting on your employee/membership data is in development but there are a couple of tweaks still needed. We are hoping to be able to launch this for you in the new year so watch this space!

 

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Save the Date – PLOG meetings

Posted on by Shirley Cuthbert

Next year’s Employer PLOG Meetings are being arranged for:

  • Bideford on Tuesday 23rd January 2018
  • Taunton on Wednesday 24th January 2018
  • Exeter on Thursday 25th January 2018

We will be changing the format slightly next year to incorporate an introductory session before and workshops after the main talks. The introductory session will provide a general overview of the LGPS so will be ideal for new staff and then the workshops will focus on specific subjects/areas.

In the main talks, we plan to cover data protection, employer discretions, administration strategies, disclosure regulations but we would like your feedback on topics you feel need to be addressed as either part of the main talk or as a workshop. Please let us know your thoughts.

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Automatic Enrolment Update

Posted on by Shirley Cuthbert

A new version of the automatic brief guide (version 7.0) has been uploaded to www.lgpsregs.org . The new guide aims to supplement the information provided by the Pensions Regulator (TPR); it covers automatic enrolment from the perspective of the LGPS and TPR and contains signposts to the detailed guidance available on TPR’s website.

The sample letters have also been updated and are now contained in a standalone document and are available on www.lgpsregs.org.

Transitional Delay
Transitional Delay was an option available to LGPS employers that allowed them to delay automatic enrolment for their eligible jobholders until 30 September 2017, provided the eligible jobholders:

  • had joined their employer before the employer’s staging date
  • were entitled to be an active member of the LGPS, and
  • were not active members of the LGPS or TPS on the employer’s staging date

Employers who used transitional delay will be aware that the end of the transitional period is approaching – 30 September 2017.  Please review the transitional delay guidance on TPR’s website. In particular, note that the exception where a worker opted out more than 12 months before the automatic enrolment date applies at the end of the transitional delay period.  See bulletin 158 for more information.

In essence, this means that an employer cannot automatically enrol an eligible jobholder who opted out more than 12 months before the transitional delay assessment date of 1 October 2017.

As this exception was introduced by the Occupational and Personal Pension Schemes (Automatic Enrolment) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 from 1 April 2015, it is likely to have changed the position for many employers whose staging date was before 1 April 2015.  You should have contacted all eligible jobholders to whom transitional delay was applied informing them that they will be enrolled into the LGPS on 1 October 2017 if they meet the eligible jobholder criteria on that date.

Where the worker opted out more than 12 months before 1 October 2017 this cannot now happen.  Please write to such individuals to inform them they will not be automatically enrolled from 1 October 2017 and to remind them of their option to opt in to the LGPS.

In addition, employers should also be aware that TPR’s guidance (see paragraphs 73 to 78) states that where an individual to whom transitional delay was applied is not an eligible jobholder on 1 October 2017 you must keep assessing the worker each pay reference as usual.  If at any point after 1 October 2017 the eligible jobholder criteria are met, unless one of the exceptions apply, the individual must be automatically enrolled with effect from 1 October 2017 – so active membership must be backdated to start from 1 October 2017 irrespective of the date the employee first meets the eligible jobholder criteria after 1 October 2017.

Obviously, this could have serious consequences if employers are required to backdate contributions for several years.  The Local Government Association (LGA) have been seeking clarification from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) on this matter and will provide us with further information as soon as it becomes available which we will naturally pass on.

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Re-employed pensioners

Posted on by Shirley Cuthbert

If you employ someone who is receipt of an LGPS pension from either the Devon or Somerset Pension Funds, please ask them to contact us so that we can check if there is any effect on their pension by them returning to work.

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