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Carillion pension trustees ‘kept in the dark’

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A committee of MPs has accused failed contracting group of trying to ‘wriggle out’ of its pension obligations for over a decade.

The failed firm has been in dispute with pension trustees for not topping up its scheme in 2008, 2011 and 2013. It had an aggregate deficit of £2bn when it collapsed, compared to just £29m of cash reserves.

The revelation came as part of a Work and Pensions Committee investigation into the way pension investments were managed at the group. A letter to the committee showed last year contributions to the pension funds were deferred until 2019 as a result of the firm’s financial difficulties.

The letter also suggests pension trustees were “kept in the dark” about the state of Carillion’s problems until the end of 2017.

Worried employees may now also be concerned about their pensions as well as their jobs. Employees of BHS and Tata Steel have had to deal with similar concerns. Are they at risk of losing their pensions?

The most important thing to know is that even if the sponsoring employer goes bust defined benefit schemes are protected by the Pension Protection Fund, which pays compensation to scheme members. Defined contribution schemes are run by pension providers, rather than the company itself, so should remain in tact (although there will be a gap in employer contributions).

However, the compensation may not be the full amount if you are below the scheme’s pension age. Many will only get 90% of the expected benefit up to a cap (£37,420.42 in 2016). See more on the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) site and’s ‘Should you be concerned about your defined benefit pension?‘ for more information.

Also, those using the PPF may not get full access to pension freedoms, said Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon:“The PPF plays an important role in protecting members of inadequately funded defined benefit pension schemes where their employer becomes insolvent. However, one significant downside is that once in the PPF, individuals lose the ability to choose the best way to take their pension.

“There’s currently a huge demand from individuals seeking advice on transferring from defined benefit to defined contribution schemes, and for many, the reason is to access the pension freedoms the Government introduced in 2015. As things stand, once in the PPF, individuals lose the ability to transfer to a defined contribution scheme and then to choose to draw their retirement income in a flexible way to match their retirement needs.” 

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