Dáil Questions: Social Protection

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Dáil Issues, Social Welfare

ORAL question for answer on 06/10/2016 :
To ask the Minister for Social Protection his views in relation to whether it is appropriate that corporate trustees and trustees can withhold additional benefits to members of occupational pension schemes while securing indemnities for their personal well-being as the assets of the scheme deteriorate; his plans to deal with pension governance in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Clare Daly.

Question No: 39 Ref No: 28778/16

To ask the Minister for Social Protection his views in relation to whether it is appropriate that corporate trustees and trustees can withhold additional benefits to members of occupational pension schemes while securing indemnities for their personal well-being as the assets of the scheme deteriorate; his plans to deal with pension governance in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Clare Daly.
* For ORAL answer on Thursday, 6th October, 2016.

R E P L Y
All dealings and decisions made by corporate or individual trustees of an occupational pension scheme are governed by legislation and enforced through the supervision of the Pension Authority.
Legislation together with the trust deed and scheme rules sets out the trustees’ duties and responsibilities. Trustees of pension schemes must act in the best financial interests of the scheme members 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 other interests.

ORAL question for answer on 06/10/2016 :
To ask the Minister for Social Protection his views in relation to whether he is concerned, particularly with the quickening demise of occupational pension schemes, that inadequate governance can lead to employers unilaterally closing down pension schemes without consulting and negotiating with all those who are affected by these actions, not just trade unions but those who may appear not to be allowed have representation, namely Pensioners and Deferred Members; his plans for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Clare Daly.

4. Question No: 9 Ref No: 28777/16

To ask the Minister for Social Protection his views in relation to whether he is concerned, particularly with the quickening demise of occupational pension schemes, that inadequate governance can lead to employers unilaterally closing down pension schemes without consulting and negotiating with all those who are affected by these actions, not just trade unions but those who may appear not to be allowed have representation, namely Pensioners and Deferred Members; his plans for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Clare Daly.
* For ORAL answer on Thursday, 6th October, 2016.
R E P L Y
As the Deputy is aware, the decline of defined benefit (DB) pension schemes accelerated during the financial crisis to the extent that the whole pension sector was possibly at risk. Over the last number of years the Government has amended pension legislation to protect the pension sector and to ensure fairer and more equitable outcomes for all members of schemes.
Neither the Minister for Social Protection nor the Pensions Authority has the power under legislation to intervene to freeze the winding-up of a scheme or to compel the employer to make contributions to a scheme.
Almost all Irish defined benefit schemes have a rule which allows the employer to cease contributions, usually after a notice period. There is no legislative obligation on the employer to make contributions and no further liability on the employer where contributions cease. Neither is there an obligation for the employer to give notice to members or to consult in advance of ceasing contributions.
However, in the case where a restructuring of benefits is proposed, pensioners, deferred scheme members and unions must be kept informed by trustees. Furthermore, changes made in 2015 require trustees to notify groups representing the interests of pensioners and deferred scheme members in a scheme in such a situation.
For the future, the Department together with the Pensions Authority is working on proposals for reform and simplification of pensions, the purpose of which is to impose higher standards for all occupational schemes. Standards in relation to pension schemes will be further enhanced by the transposition of the new IORPS II Directive within the next two years.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.
ENDS

The rules governing the role of a trustee member are constantly being enhanced. The Pensions Authority is presently carrying out a public consultation process on proposals to impose higher standards for trustees. The transposition of the new EU Directive IORPS II within the next two years will further advance the duties and supervision of trustees.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.