Questions for Minister for Social Protection

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Pensions Board

To ask the Minister for Social Protection the steps she has taken to ensure that in the guidance notes for the Pensions Board in relation to the recently enacted Social Welfare and Pensions No.2 Act that a scale of protection to recognise length of service, age, duration and varying contributions made, is included to protect members with long pensionable service and contributions; and that the Pensions Board are required to not just notify pensioners about reductions but to provide for negotiations and appeals. – Clare Daly.

The Social Welfare and Pensions (No.2) Act provides for the issue of guidance in relation to the drawdown of State funding in the event of the wind up of an underfunded scheme, where the employer is insolvent and the scheme does not have sufficient resources to meet 50% of scheme benefits or benefits up to a maximum of €12,000. This guidance is being advanced at present.
The use of age and length of service in the calculation and determination of pension benefits in a situation of scheme wind up was considered in some depth during the deliberation process. With regard torho length of service, it can be argued that the approach currently in place in relation to the calculation of scheme benefits is in fact a service related approach as greater benefits are accrued by those with longer service. However, an age related approach would raise risks in relation to age discrimination.

Any consideration of a restructure of pension scheme benefits under section 50 of the Pensions Act must comply with the provisions in the Act and with guidance issued by the Pensions Board. The current guidance makes provision for the notification of all pensioners in advance of any application to the Pensions Board to restructure scheme benefits. In such circumstances a pensioner will have at least one month to make a submission to the trustees of the scheme in relation to such a proposal. The Pensions Board must be satisfied that all the provisions in the guidance are complied with before the Board will consider issuing a notice to restructure scheme benefits.
The matter of representation by pensioner groups in the situation of a change to scheme benefits needs to be considered in a broader industrial relations context. In this regard, I have asked my colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, to examine this matter.