Should Veganism Feature on the Pensions Menu?


The recent Employment Tribunal case of Mr Jordi Casamitjana, which caused quite a stir in the media, focused on the Tribunal’s decision that ethical veganism was eligible to qualify as a “protected characteristic” under the Equalities Act 2010. In that case, Mr Casamitjana was dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct by his employer, the League Against Cruel Sports, where he was a policy adviser. More details on the case can be found in my colleague David Whincup’s blog.

A little reported feature of the case was that the straw that broke the camel’s back (as it were) for the employee was that when he rejoined his company’s employment, after a break of several years working on other causes, he was automatically enrolled in a defined contribution pension arrangement where the default fund, among other things, invested in companies which engaged in animal testing, contrary to his philosophical beliefs. Mr Casamitjana chose to invest his contributions in an alternative ethical fund but believed that his colleagues were unaware of the default fund’s investments. He decided to take matters into his own hands and publicised his views to his fellow workers to encourage them to switch to one of the ethical funds offered. The employer concluded that he had failed to follow an instruction not to provide what could be construed as financial advice to his colleagues and he was dismissed. He subsequently challenged the grounds for his dismissal and the outcome of that part of the Employment Tribunal’s deliberations is still awaited. Continue Reading

A long time ago in a member state far, far away…

On 19 December 2019, an epic story with multiple twists and which many thought would never happen will reach its conclusion. And there will be no droids or Wookies involved. Yes, it’s the day we are expecting the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Communities (“CJEU”) in connection with the German case known as Bauer. *This blog does not contain spoilers!*

In a nutshell, Mr Bauer suffered a reduction of around 7.5% of his overall pension benefits as a result of financial difficulties suffered by his former employer. One of the questions the German courts have asked the CJEU is whether an employee could be said to have suffered losses, as a result of the insolvency of his former employer, which are “manifestly disproportionate” if those losses do not amount to more than 50% of his accrued pension benefits. Continue Reading

2005 revisited? Civil partnerships are back in fashion

Heart Sparkler

It has gone relatively unnoticed in the media, but the government has brought in legislation (effective 2 December) enabling civil partnerships to be formed by opposite-sex couples in England and Wales, with the first ceremonies being possible from 31 December 2019.

Opposite-sex civil partners will be treated in much the same way as same-sex civil partners. It remains to be seen whether there are many unmarried members of defined benefit pension schemes who are in an opposite-sex relationship and will wish now to formalise their relationship as civil partners. The likely impact this will have on pension scheme liabilities is therefore unclear at present, and of course there will only be an additional benefit cost if the scheme does not already provide full survivors’ benefits for unmarried partners. Continue Reading

What do Antigua and Barbuda and pension trustees have in common? (And it’s got nothing to do with rum or pirates!)


9 December 2019 is an important date in each of their respective calendars, albeit for different reasons.

9 December is national heroes day in Antigua and Barbuda and it is also a date that should be of note for pension scheme trustees. Not only is it the eve of the coming into force of various provisions of the CMA’s order in relation to the investment consultancy and fiduciary management market, but it is also the day on which the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is replacing its Approved Persons Regime with the Senior Managers Certification Regime.

Why is this important to know? Well, first, it’s only important to know for trustees of schemes that provide safeguarded benefits. Broadly speaking, this means that the benefits will include an element of defined benefit. Continue Reading

Time to check for hidden gems in your insurance cover

Keep Calm And Carry On Sticky Note With Pin

Let’s start with the key point. If you get a knock on the door from The Pensions Regulator (TPR) then take a deep breath, do not panic and check your insurance policy as soon as you possibly can.

TPR has promised to be “clearer, quicker and tougher” and we have certainly seen the regulator ramp up its enforcement activity this past year. And the pension schemes bill, if passed by the new Government, will give TPR greater powers than ever before in terms of its ability to investigate suspected wrong doing and bring enforcement action against, amongst others, trustees and employers if TPR thinks something may be going wrong with a scheme. So, we anticipate more investigations and enforcement action against more schemes. Continue Reading

A quick guide to staying auto enrolment compliant – for UK employers

Think you have cracked auto enrolment? You may have chosen a pension scheme, enrolled the right people and notified The Pensions Regulator (TPR). What else can be left? Here are the top three things required to help you stay on track.

1. Re-enrolment and re-declaration

Every three years you must assess some of your staff again, even if they have previously opted out or reduced their contributions, as their situation may have changed. You may now need to auto enrol them. Importantly, you must also tell TPR that you have carried out your re-assessment or face penalties for non-compliance. Make sure you have read and followed TPR’s essential guide to re-enrolment and re-declaration. Continue Reading

End of Round One for TPR?

Red Boxing GLoves

The pension schemes bill has been issued, giving The Pensions Regulator (TPR) stronger powers, but its passage through parliament is far from over.

The new bill legislates for “collective money purchase benefits” and the pensions dashboard, it amends the scheme funding provisions of the Pensions Act 2004 and introduces changes to the individual transfer regime (in a bid to make pension liberation schemes less effective). It strengthens the powers of TPR and it also amends rules around the Pension Protection Fund to make retrospective the requirement that all of a member’s benefits in a scheme (including those transferred in) would be subject to the same cap. Continue Reading

An Ode to Pensions Risk Management

Two climbers on a rock face with bright blue sky

Risk management is tricky, as things move along so fast,
You think you have it covered, but that status doesn’t last.
In terms of regulations, you may be surprised to learn
Five hundred have been issued since the last decade did turn.
We’re close to Twenty Twenty, it’s a good time to reflect
On headlines from the last decade that we did not expect.

In Twenty Ten a statement caused plenty of vexation,
Some schemes could move to CPI for pensions indexation.
In April the year after, the chancellor took some action
The AA was the target, and he axed it to a fraction.

Continue Reading

Brisk Walks and Pensions Reports

Many people benefit from having a daily routine of some sort. Repetition takes away the stress of having to make lots of small decisions. For example, I take a brisk walk along the same route from the station to my office most days – I can judge whether I’m running early or late depending when I spot certain regular fellow commuters. But routine can also stifle perception. Some days I cannot really distinguish today’s walk from yesterday’s walk.

How is this relevant to pensions? Continue Reading

What’s the time, Mr Wolf?

Lone Wolf Howling

Dinner time! Or rather, it’s time for our near annual reminder of the perils of ignoring The Pensions Regulator (TPR). We know by now that it really does bite!

In 2017 we wrote about the first high profile uses by TPR of its power to prosecute individuals for failing, without reasonable excuse, to comply with an order to provide information to TPR when required to do so under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004. In the first case, TPR secured convictions against a firm of solicitors and its managing partner; in the next, they secured a conviction against the Chief Executive of a charity. Continue Reading