The Department for Work and Pensions had pledged to explore the possibility of introducing a “compliance window” when it issued amendements on 10 November 2006. Many in the industry including the CBI expressed concern that the deadline would be impossible to meet.
The DWP has now ruled out an extension, saying it would be breaching its European obligations.
In a letter to the industry DWP head of EU and international pension policy David Bateman says: “Such a provision would, in effect, be allowing unjustifiable discriminatory practice to continue for a period of time after which, due to our European obligations, we are required to prevent it.”
The industry, which forced a delay to the implementation to the EU rules for pensions, has reacted angrily to the news. There are still widespread concerns that, despite attempts by the Government to introduce more leeway, employers and trustees will be unable to operate schemes with tiered contributions.
Standard Life pensions technical manager Andrew Tully says: “Despite the incredibly late issue of final regulations covering these changes, the DWP are unwilling to even slightly bend the EU imposed timescales. This means employers and trustees need to take immediate action to ensure their pension scheme meets the new requirements, otherwise they face the possibility of court action and increased costs during the period their scheme is not compliant.”
Aegon head of group marketing Alison Nelson says:
“The clock is ticking and there’s a big risk of employers and trustees being caught out by the legislation. While we sympathise with the DWP’s position in having to stick to the original implementation date, a three week period between final regulations and the effective date is really asking a lot.”