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.”