Areas of practice

 

  • Automatic enrolment

    • Preparation for staging dates, including analysis of existing provision and the automatic enrolment and re-enrolment duties

    • Advice on who needs to be automatically enrolled and re-enrolled

    • Establishing and documenting flexible benefits and salary sacrifice (including member communications)

    • Provide guidance on the interaction of complex PAYE schemes and group structures on automatic enrolment and re-enrolment

    • Advice on the interaction of tax protections and automatic enrolment.

    Recent experience

    • Providing guidance on when the pensions consultation requirements apply where changes are made to pension schemes to comply with automatic enrolment (eg changes in contribution levels)

    • Advice on what may constitute an “inducement” to opt out

    • Advice on flexibilities around re-enrolment dates

    • Advice to limited liability partnerships (LLPs) and traditional partnerships in light of the Clyde & Co LLP case.

  • Corporate activity

    We have experience of all types of transactions and transactional structures, including private mergers and acquisitions, takeovers of listed companies, joint ventures, management buy outs and distressed sales such as pre-pack administrations. Many of these transactions have an international element, and we regularly advise clients with no prior knowledge of the UK pension system.

    How we can help

    • Identifying pensions issues on transactions through due diligence

    • Advice on how to deal with deficits in pension funds for buyers and sellers, including managing debts

    • The issues surrounding TUPE and how it impacts on pension funds transferred post transaction including Beckmann/Martin liabilities

    • Advice on anti-avoidance and clearance applications to the Pensions Regulator

    • Drafting and advice on communications with employees

    • Advice on company restructuring and re-organisations.

  • DB Schemes

    We act for trustees and sponsors on our DB Schemes, which include final salary, CARE schemes and cash balance schemes, among others.

    How we can help

    • Advising on scheme funding and management of the valuation process

    • Input on investment matters, including negotiating investment related documentation and advising trustees on compliance issues

    • Our expertise in good scheme governance can help trustees and sponsors to ensure they have rigorous processes in place to deliver sound, transparent decision making

    • Sackers advises all parties in pension disputes affecting DB schemes

    • Advising on legal matters which may affect the operation of pension schemes such as tax and discrimination

    • Preparing and keeping up to date all types of pension scheme documentation – from trust deed and rules and scheme handbooks to member communications meeting disclosure requirements

    • Advising clients on making changes to benefit provisions in response to changing economic circumstances or following corporate activity and the best way in which to document these changes.

    Recent experience

    • We act for more of the top 100 schemes by value than any other law firm, over a wide variety of business sectors, including the scheme trustees of the DHL, National Grid and Lloyds Bank pension plans, as well as corporate clients

    • Advice to the trustee of the Siemens Benefit Scheme on an asset-backed funding structure involving cross-border intra-group loan obligations with a nominal value in excess of £300 million

    • Advice to the Lloyds TSB pension scheme on disposal of securitised assets

    • Advice to Royal Mail trustees in relation to transfer of assets to Government.

  • DC schemes

    DC schemes are UK's principal form of retirement savings for the future. 

    How we can help

    We have identified four key priorities for employers and trustees of DC schemes, and have developed our services around them.

    Governance

    • Minimum quality standards

    • Chair’s annual statement

    • Assessing value for money

    • DC code of practice

    • Transparency and charges

    • Trustee training

    • Governance committees

    Benefits

    • Contract vs trust based schemes

    • Master trusts

    • Pension taxation

    • Pension flexibilities

    • Scheme transfers

    • Auto-enrolment

    Communications

    • Guidance vs advice

    • Understanding disclosure requirements

    • Engaging with members

    • Reviewing materials

    Investments

    • Review of and reporting on fund options

    • Selection of default fund strategy

    • Negotiating platform agreements

    • Advising on decumulation tools

    Of course, no two organisations are the same, and we pride ourselves on delivering solutions tailored entirely to your needs. Our specialist team is on hand to help.

    Recent experience

    • Establishing new DC occupational pension schemes, preparing their rules, member communications and third party contracts

    • Advising on the establishment of new master trust arrangements and the legislation applicable to work based pension arrangements, drafting the trust deed and rules and providing ongoing advice to the Trustee, including on bulk transfers in and meeting ongoing governance requirements

    • Advising on investment fund reviews, mapping across to new funds, and related member communications

    • Advising on security of asset issues associated with DC platform providers and AVC policies

    • Working with independent trustees on their appointment to IGCs and also providers on the regulatory requirements for IGCs and how these can be met

    • Advising the Pensions Regulator on winding up DC schemes, in relation to the legal and practical considerations and difficulties involved for trustees

    • Advising on the content of chair’s annual governance statements, and the assessment of value for money

    • Considering the impact of pension flexibilities and pension tax changes on administration, annuity broker contracts and related member communications.

  • Discrimination

    We apply this legislation to all types of pension schemes.

    How we can help

    • Analysis of benefits to ensure schemes equalised benefits effectively following the 1990 CJEU case of Barber

    • Advice on the current state of play on GMP Equalisation

    • Considering benefit design issues in light of age and disability discrimination legislation

    • Advice on the impact of age and disability discrimination legislation on Pension Increase Exchange exercises

    • Advice on the legal requirements for benefits for same sex couples

    • Advice on the impact of family leave on pension benefits.

    Recent experience

    • Advice to schemes on the provision of pension benefits for civil partners following the case of Walker v Innospec and the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013

    • Advice on provision of death in service benefits to those members with disabilities.

  • International pensions

    We offer advise on global, offshore and cross-border pensions law.

    How we can help

    • Setting up and running cross-border schemes and multinational pooling arrangements

    • Advice for trustees and employers on the issues for international pension schemes, as well as ‘section 615′ schemes and offshore schemes, including in the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey

    • Managing the pensions requirements for an internationally mobile workforce, including guidance on taxation and local law requirements and establishing schemes for globally mobile employees

    • Advising on issues relating to EFRBS (or FURBS as they were previously known), including those targeted at globally mobile employees.

    Recent experience

    • In collaboration with three other Ius Laboris firms, advising a major insurance company on setting up a pan European pension fund

    • Advising a multinational employer on the setting up of a new trust based international DC pension scheme including the administration and investment arrangements

    • Advising on the winding-up and buying-out of the benefits of a section 615 scheme with a UK insurer

    • Advising on the options for a defined benefit Isle of Man scheme in the context of a corporate restructuring

    • Advising an employer on obligations for providing support to a Guernsey defined benefit pension scheme.

  • Pension Protection Fund

    The Pension Protection Fund provides compensation to members of eligible DB schemes where there are insufficient assets in the pension scheme to pay a specified level of benefits on the insolvency of its sponsor. The PPF is funded by the payment of levies each year by all pension schemes potentially eligible for entry into the PPF. Many schemes have put in place strategies for managing their PPF levies including contingent assets which help to reduce risk – and therefore, also reduce the risk-based levy.

    How we can help

    • Drafting, and advice on, PPF contingent assets to help schemes reduce risk and PPF levy payments

    • Advice on PPF levy invoices, including challenging invoices

    • Advice for schemes going into PPF assessment periods, including documentation, data and assessment of benefit entitlements

    • Advice to companies on restructuring and other corporate activity which may involve clearance applications and advice on the potential impact of the PPF

    Recent experience

    • We recently advised, and provided project management to, the Dawson group of companies entering the PPF assessment period. The Dawson pension scheme has now entered the PPF

    • We advised the trustees of the HMV pension scheme which has entered a PPF assessment period

    • We acted for the TfL Pension Fund and TfL against the PPF to challenge certain PPF levy invoices. A settlement agreement was reached before trial, saving our client millions of pounds.

  • Pension de-risking

    A number of alternatives exist for those seeking to reduce the risk in their schemes, including LDI strategies, as well as tools that help to reduce longevity risk such as longevity swaps, buy-ins and synthetic buy-ins. Some schemes even choose to take the ultimate step of transferring all liabilities to an insurance company through a buy-out.

  • Pensions & investment litigation

    How we can help

    • As the pensions landscape continues to change, so too do the risks and governance challenges. We are well-versed in dealing with historic problems that are becoming uncovered more regularly in mature pension schemes, such as ‘equalisation’ and issues concerning the power of amendment. We are also regularly involved in the developing areas of pensions and investment litigation such as pension fraud and shareholder claims.

    •  We act for both claimants and respondents in all forms of litigation including:

      • High Court trustee applications

      • Contentious regulatory investigations and proceedings

      • Investment related claims involving pension schemes

      • Professional negligence claims and mediations

      • Pensions Ombudsman and Financial Ombudsman complaints.

      • We also provide trustees, employers, and pension scheme administration teams with practical training aimed at effectively managing errors and member complaints.

    Recent experience

    • We are currently acting for the trustees of the Coats pension scheme in relation to the Pensions Regulator’s ‘moral hazard’ powers. We also acted for the trustees of the Sea Containers scheme in proceedings when the first ever Financial Support Direction was issued, and have acted for parties and other stakeholders in relation to numerous other instances of intervention by the Regulator.

    • We acted for Honda on a complex construction issue in the Court of Appeal.

    • Our experience on scheme funding extends to situations where TPR is looking to exercise its powers. We acted for the EMI trustees in a funding dispute that was settled the week before a scheduling hearing before the Determinations Panel.

    • Employer debts can be extremely complex and cause trustees and employers significant strain. We acted for a prominent employer in the Pilots’ National Pension Fund case, and recently acted for trustees in enforcing a disputed employer debt which was settled on advantageous terms shortly before trial.

    • We acted for the four representative beneficiaries in the well-known Prudential case in the High Court which has become one of the leading authorities on the employer’s duty of good faith.

    • Acting for the employer of the Citifinancial pension scheme, we obtained Court-ordered rectification (by summary judgment) of historic mistakes in the scheme’s documentation and subsequently recovered the costs of doing so through a professional negligence claim which was settled at mediation. We have advised a variety of clients in relation to similar circumstances.

    • We regularly advise in relation to investment related disputes with investment managers, administrators and securities related issues, including advising the BBC and other clients in the group action against Henderson.

    • We also provide advice on the governance issues relating to pension schemes’ participation in shareholder class actions both in the UK and abroad, which includes tailored protocols and guidance notes.

  • Public sector pensions

    How we can help

    • Establishing passport schemes for private sector employers

    • Advice on the obligations and implications of pensions outsourcing for employers

    • Entry and exit terms for local government pension schemes, including Fair Deal transfers

    • Issues relating to bonds on joining the LGPS

    • Investment issues for local government schemes including buy-ins and buy-outs and setting up common investment funds.

    Recent experience

    • Advising the Ministry of Justice on the pensions aspects of a series of large scale technology outsourcing procurements involving transfers from the PCSPS

    • Advising Xerox in relation to changes to its NHSPS sections and the issue of a new GAD passport

    • Advising Guildford and Woking Borough Council on the outsourcing of its leisure management operations and the associated Fair Deal transfers

    • Ongoing advice to numerous admitted bodies to the LGPS on their bonds, admission agreements, and auto-enrolment obligations

    • Advice to LGPS funds in relation to the government’s proposed governance changes to public sector schemes.

  • State pension changes

    With effect from 6 April 2016, the Government intends to replace the current state pension system with a flat rate single-tier pension.

    With effect from 6 April 2016 the sponsoring employer and members of open schemes which are currently contracted-out will pay NICs at the full rate.  Recognising that this additional cost will be a blow for employers, the Government has provided them with a unilateral power to amend their schemes, in relation to some or all of the members, to take account of the increase in their NICs.

    Schemes may also have been designed to integrate with state benefits.  For example, state benefits may be taken into account through:

    • a deduction in pensionable salary

    • a deduction to a pension in payment or

    • a bridging pension.

    Employers and trustees should consider whether rule changes will be needed so that such benefits continue to work as intended after 6 April 2016 or, alternatively, whether a change to future benefit design might be appropriate.

    How we can help

    • Advising on the use of the employer’s statutory modification power

    • Advising on removal of reference scheme test underpins in DC schemes

    • Review of trust deed and rules and advice on the need for changes to take account of the introduction of the new single tier State pension

    • Drafting communications to members

    • Advising trustees on employer’s proposals for change and their role in the process

    • Advising on consultation requirements

    • Advising on disclosure requirements

    Recent experience

    • Advice to large employer client in the innovation and technology sector, formulating and communicating a proposal to reduce future benefits so as to offset the anticipated increase in national insurance liabilities from 6 April 2016

    • Advice to motor industry client regarding interaction of its scheme benefit structure with state pension changes and rule amendments needed to avoid inadvertent consequences of the change to the state pension

  • Scheme funding

    How we can help

    • Advice to employers and trustees of DB schemes on the statutory requirements of scheme funding

    • Analysis of the legal rights and obligations under Scheme trust deeds and rules

    • Preparation of key scheme funding documentation

    • Negotiation with TPR on behalf of trustees and employers on scheme funding matters

    • Advice to schemes selected for TPR’s programme of proactive engagement

    • Advice on the legal requirements for investment arrangements to meet scheme funding requirements.

    Recent experience

    • Advice to the trustees of the EMI pension scheme following a Warning Notice on scheme funding issued by TPR

    • Advice to schemes on TPR’s latest annual statement on scheme funding

    • Advice to schemes selected for TPR’s early engagement programme.

  • Scheme governance

    We now offer a Governance Health Check to confirm whether effective governance measures are in place.

    How we can help

    • Ensuring the efficient running of boards through business planning, effective use of sub-committees and delegation

    • Reviewing existing governance arrangements to ensure that they remain suitable for current needs and circumstances

    • Tailoring governance solutions for conflicts of interest, data protection and other key operational areas to suit scheme needs

    • Preparing and advising on risk registers and policy documents relating to anti-bribery, whistleblowing and other aspects of compliance.

    Recent experience

    • Drafting and advising on the preparation of DC Chair’s annual governance statements

    • Reviewing trustee skills and effectiveness, assisting with identifying skills gaps, providing training and input on MNT selection, including sitting on panels

    • Advising on the governance aspects of combined trustee boards and updating arrangements to reflect the board’s role as trustee to multiple schemes

    • Updating scheme governance as circumstances change and to reflect closure to accrual, investment de-risking, scheme mergers and bulk transfers

    • Day-to-day queries relating to governance where we provide practical answers designed to support the running of the scheme.

  • Tax

    We are experts in helping trustees and administrators of schemes understand tax arrangements in both DB schemes and DC schemes. There may be adverse tax consequences for both members and schemes if unauthorised payments are made.

    How we can help

    • Advice on categorising benefits as authorised or unauthorised payments under the Finance Act 2004

    • Ensuring that employers can provide tax efficient pension benefits, despite the continuing reductions in the key allowances, the annual allowance and the lifetime allowance

    • Applying for tax protections and designing benefit arrangements and transactions to ensure that these protections are maintained

    • Advice on the tax arrangements for certain investment vehicles, such as Special Purpose Vehicles

    • Advice on transfers to overseas pensions schemes and QROPS issues.

    Recent experience

    • Advice on the application of the tax allowances to high earners

    • Advice on providing benefits in excess of the lifetime allowance, including payment of the tax charges, member communications and documentation

    • Advice on establishing and operating salary sacrifice arrangements

    • Advice on the implications of the 2015 pension freedoms

    • Advice on the impact of the 2015 summer budget changes

    • Responding to consultations on proposed tax changes.

  • The Pensions Regulator

    The Pensions Regulator currently has five main objectives:

    • To protect members benefits; to reduce the risk of a scheme entering the Pension Protection Fund;

    • To maximise compliance with the automatic enrolment duties;

    • To promote good administration of occupational pension schemes;

    • And to minimise any adverse impact on the sustainable growth of an employer (in relation to scheme funding). 

    The Government is planning to introduce a statutory requirement for TPR to consider affordability of contributions in the context of scheme funding shortly.

    The circumstances in which TPR’s powers can be exercised are wide-ranging, as are those who may be subject to them.

    How we can help

    • Assisting trustees and sponsors of DB schemes in liaising with TPR on all matters
    • Assisting trustees of DC schemes in relation to TPR’s code of practice and governance statement
    • Advice on anti-avoidance (and its associated clearance procedure) on corporate activity including transactions or restructuring
    • Negotiating with TPR in relation to scheme funding issues
    • Assisting employers regarding their auto-enrolment duties and surrounding compliance issues
    • Advising sponsors and trustees on compliance with, and enforcement action proposed by, TPR
    • Liaison with TPR is an increasingly important part of scheme governance in a number of discrete areas.

    Recent experience

    • Advising the trustees of the Sea Containers pension scheme in relation to the imposition of an FSD
    • Advice to the trustees of the Royal Mail Pension Scheme in relation to the transfer of assets to Government
    • Advice to the trustees of the EMI pension scheme following a Warning Notice on scheme funding issued by TPR.