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Altmann resists intervening in NHS cash-for-pensions scandal

Ros Altmann

Pensions minister Ros Altmann says the Government will not intervene in the case of an NHS trust offering staff higher salaries for lower pension contributions.

The minister’s reluctance to intervene comes as the FT reports today the south-east London Oxleas Trust has been referred to The Pensions Regulator over the matter.

Last month it was revealed the Trust was offering new nurses the choice of being enroled into the generous NHS pension scheme or at the auto-enrolment minimum but with a higher wage.

But speaking to Money Marketing before news of the referral to TPR broke, Altmann said she is more concerned that staff understand what they are giving up.

She said: “The important thing on looking into it is they haven’t tried to avoid auto-enrolment altogether. They are offering people the opportunity of the minimum auto-enrolment contributions or better, the real fear is if employers give higher salaries for no contributions at all.

“I would like to make sure when people are being told their choice they are presented with the full information about what they are giving up.

“How much is that other pension worth – the NHS scheme is very valuable? Do they understand that? If they still decide to make that choice, then the employer is still complying with the law.”

However, she added there would be a problem if evidence emerged of lots of firms following suit.

She said: “Obviously we don’t want lots of employers to entice people to have bad pensions when they could have good ones but what’s most important is that we get people starting to save into pensions.”

A Pensions Regulator spokeswoman could not confirm if the Trust had been referred to it.

She says: “Our regulatory decisions are taken on the basis of the information available at a particular point in time. If new information comes to light, we will look again at the decision wherever it’s appropriate to do so.”

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Comments

There are 9 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Obviously Ros no longer feels the need to pose as a ‘consumer champion’.

  2. She is feeding from the trough so why bother with the consumers champion nonsense any longer? Does she really believe the NHS Trust is question will really bother to explain or highlight the significant benefits of the NHS DB scheme being given up as opposed to them hoping the new employee will be blinded by the shiny coins of higher salary?
    As with anyone transferring benefits away from a DB scheme being required to take financial advice so any employees being offered this choice should be required to take financial advice prior to making the decision with costs being covered by the employer. Undoubtedly most people will be giving up a potential benefit well in excess of the £30K threshold

  3. David Cathcart 8th March 2016 at 4:57 pm

    Come on Ros, rules are rules, this is an inducement not to join the pension scheme. Not only does it breach the Pension Regulators rules, it no doubt breaks the terms of the employees employment contract.
    But here we go again, one rule for one, one rule for another
    I wonder what would happen if this was a small engineering firm in Birmingham – answers on a postcard to the Pension Regulator.

  4. Lets say the NHS employee is 22 with a mortgage, you can see their logic in committing more to their current needs than their future needs, what happens when they reach age 40, will they be allowed to swap across to the DB scheme then? I suspect NOT, in which case this is a pension OPt Out, which to advise on you have to have G60/AF£ and the relevant permissions so anyone asking their mortgage adviser what to do, OR the NHS HR staff or even a regulated level 4 investment adviser is likely to break the law by expressing an opinion as to what is best.

  5. Naturally I will disagree. I consider Ros to indeed be a consumer champion in this case. I only hope she and her department keep their noses out of the small firms who are doing likewise. AE is not championing the consumer – more like it is championing those advisers who are trousering fees extolling the virtues of this naff scheme. No wonder so many advisers seem to be keen on it. They feel they have a captive audience to whom they don’t have to advise on a quality product.

    • I agree with you in some ways Harry, AE is wrong for small employers, all that was needed was entry by default so that natural inertia keeps people in once in. BUT govt made the rules and they cannot be selective as to who to enforce the rules/law against. Change the rules…. don’t break them.

  6. Rules are for Advisers and Banks!

  7. Phil

    We all break rules – several times a day. It just goes to show how daft some rules are. Not smoking in cars with children present – not one prosecution. Not using a hand held mobile phone. Not exceeding the speed limit. Not going over the drink drive limit. Not driving whilst under the influence of medicines and drugs. Not jay walking. Not littering. Avoiding AE. What’s the difference (particularly if the staff don’t want it either)?

    • Harry the thing is that we know what we are doing when we do those things, whereas I 100% guarantee that not one single solitary nurse knows what they are doing giving up rights the the NHS 2015 scheme.

      We specialise in NHS staff, I’ve sat in on financial awareness seminars that cover their pensions and reviewed literally hundreds of staff’s finances, from grounds keepers to brain surgeons. Not once, have I ever seen, reviewed or spoken to any member of NHS staff who has any idea how valuable their pension scheme is.

      99% of them don’t even know the basic rules of how the scheme works, or even how their benefits are calculated.

      As a taxpayer, I applaud this, but for any so called consumer champion such as Ros, who purports to be a pension expert (I have my doubts) to suggest what is said here is frankly absurd.

      There are some people, who it might be appropriate to (those with very wealthy families etc), but for the vast, vast majority, it’s no different to them being mis sold pensions in the 80’s..

      Ros knows this, but does nothing, guess we know how strong her consumer champion voice really is..

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