Thursday, 30 May 2019

Questions (41)

Bríd Smith

Question:

41. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to ensure representative organisations of retired workers can have access to forums that will decide or discuss their pension entitlements and benefits; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20566/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

Scheme trustees have duties and responsibilities under the Pension Act 1990, as amended, under trust law and under other relevant legislation.  The duties of pension scheme trustees include administering the scheme in accordance with the law and the terms of the trust deed and scheme rules as well as ensuring compliance with the requirements that apply to these schemes.  Trustees must act in the best financial interests of all scheme members, whether active, deferred or retired, and must serve all beneficiaries of the scheme impartially.  If there is a conflict of interest then a person's duty as a trustee must take precedence over interests.

Measures were introduced in 2015 to facilitate engagement between the trustees of a pension scheme and groups representing the interests of pensioner and deferred scheme members. 

Changes to guidance issued by the Pensions Authority require the trustees of a pension scheme to notify groups representing the interest of scheme members of proposals by the trustees of a defined benefit pension scheme to issue a direction under section 50 of the Pensions Act to restructure scheme benefits.  This affords the representative group an opportunity to make a submission to the trustees of a pension scheme in relation to proposals to restructure scheme benefits.  These changes facilitate engagement between groups representing the interests of pensioner and deferred scheme members and the Pension Authority and the trustees of a pension scheme.  

Groups representing the interests of pensioners and deferred scheme members have a right to appeal a section 50 direction by the Pensions Authority to the High Court on a point of law.

Current legislation does not specifically provide that member trustees must include at least one or more members from each scheme membership cohort, namely, active, deferred and pensioners, it does provide an opportunity for membership from each cohort and such members may avail of the opportunity to become scheme trustees or nominate others to act on their behalf.

The Pensions Authority is the regulatory body charged with the supervision of pension schemes and has the necessary powers under statute to investigate the conduct of a pension scheme should it become aware that a scheme is not in compliance with the provisions of the Pensions Act.  Where a pension scheme member is of the view that the scheme is not in compliance with legislative requirements he or she may make a formal complaint to the Pensions Authority.

Any questions relating to access to the State's industrial relations machinery is a matter for the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 28.