Friday 27 March 2020: The Covid-19 crisis has created significant challenges for pensions scheme trustees, sponsoring employers and for the pensions industry. The Pensions Authority has set out below some guidelines and advice on how to deal with the most immediate issues.
Trustees and service providers
If they have not been in communication, trustees should immediately contact their administrators and service providers to assess the effect of the Covid-19 crisis on the operation of the scheme. In particular they should confirm the following:
- that pension payments to retired members are paid as they fall due
- that other benefits are paid in a timely manner
- that contributions paid by members and employers are remitted promptly to the scheme.
The Pensions Authority is well aware that the crisis creates practical difficulties for the completion of many tasks and responsibilities on time, and that it can be difficult to convene meetings of trustees and to issue documents to members and to others. The Authority will of course take into account current circumstances when assessing the trustees’ compliance with their obligations. However, the Authority expects that reasonable efforts are made and that the trustees and their service providers are proactive and member focussed.
The recent sharp falls in investment markets have a direct impact on defined contribution savers and will make it harder for defined benefit schemes to provide the benefits set out in the scheme rules. However, markets are volatile and unpredictable, and the Pensions Authority cautions against making any immediate investment decisions unless absolutely necessary. Pension scheme members should contact the trustees of their scheme if they have any questions about their pension investments. Trustees of defined benefit schemes should engage with their advisors to consider the impact of the current market conditions on the funding position of their scheme and any actions that need to be considered.
Pension scheme contributions
The Pensions Authority has received a number of queries about whether it is permissible to suspend contributions to pension schemes for the duration of the crisis.
Most importantly, any occupational pension or PRSA contributions deducted from employees’ pay must be remitted to the scheme or PRSA provider within the statutory deadlines. Failure to do so is a criminal offence and the Authority will pursue such cases actively.
The separate question of suspending pension contributions is primarily governed by the contracts of employment and pension scheme rules. The Authority is examining this matter in detail and will issue an announcement in the coming days.
The Pensions Authority
In accordance with Government guidelines, the Pensions Authority’s public office will remain closed until 19 April. The Pensions Authority remains in operation during this period and you can continue to contact us by phone on 01-6131900, or by email at email@example.com. Further general guidance is also available on our website at www.pensionsauthority.ie.
For further information, contact:
The Pensions Authority
Tel: (01) 613 1900
Note to editors
The Pensions Authority is the statutory body established by the Pensions Act 1990 to regulate occupational pension schemes, trust based RACs and Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) and to advise the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection on overall pension policy development.