The beginning of 2022 saw trustees and employers grappling with the extensive requirements of the Pensions Authority’s Code of Practice (Code), which was published in November 2021. The finalised Code contained a new chapter on master trusts which had not been included in the Authority’s draft Code published earlier in 2021 for consultation purposes. The new chapter provided master trust sponsors with plenty to consider.
Developments in Automatic Enrolment (AE) were not anticipated at the start of the year, but the Irish Government has pressed ahead. In March, the Minister for Social Protection announced finalised design principles for Ireland’s proposed AE pension system, and in October the approval of the Draft Heads of the General Scheme of the Automatic Enrolment Retirement Savings System Bill was announced.
At the end of March, the Cabinet announced a substantial change to the State Pension system. Perhaps the most eye-catching of these measures is the retention of 66 years old as the State Pension age. This went against the advice of the newly established Commission on Pensions, which argued strongly in favour of incremental increases to the State Pension age over the coming years. This decision will see an increase in PRSI but, as we see below, the new approach is more nuanced than one might think.
Throughout the year, the Authority issued information notes on a number of areas including compliance with the regulations transposing the IORP II Directive into Irish law (Regulations) as well as benefit transfers to master trusts, with the latter being front and centre for all providers of group schemes and one-member arrangements at the time of writing.
With the end of the year and festivities in sight it may be a good time for some quick revision!
State Pension Age
The State Pension age will remain at 66 years old but a new “flexible” system is to be introduced, which gives people the choice to work until 70 in return for a higher state pension.
An enhanced State pension also makes provision for long term-carers. This means that people who have given up work over a long duration of time to look after a loved one will have this time recognised in the pension system for the first time.
It has also been announced that long-term sustainability of the State Pension system will be funded by incremental increases in social insurance rates.
Read the full article: Changes Around the Corner for State Pension in Ireland
The Government aims to introduce an AE system at the end of 2023. The scheme aims to bridge the gap between living standards before and after retirement. Ireland is reportedly one of the only OECD countries which does not currently operate AE. The new scheme is expected to impact around 750,000 workers aged between 23 and 60 and who are earning over €20,000 a year across employments and who are not already enrolled in an occupational pension scheme. In this article we considered the finalised design principles.
Read the full article: Automatic Enrolment - A Supplementary Pensions Retirement Savings System
IORP II and Master Trusts
The Authority has issued a number of information notes on scheme wind-ups and master trust transfers as well as making it clear that one-member arrangements, such as executive pension plans, are far from ideal when it comes to compliance with the Regulations.
Those aiming to transfer to a master trust in 2023 should make the commitment to wind-up their scheme before the end of 2022 to ensure that IORP II requirements will not apply to the scheme before the transfer occurs next year.
For those that are inclined to retain their current group scheme, employers and trustees will need to work together to identify what is required to make their scheme compliant. In most cases professional advice will be necessary. The aim of the Regulations is to improve the outcomes for scheme members by ensuring proper procedures and policies are in place and that schemes are well managed and operated by experienced trustees.
Read the full article: 2022 and Pensions - The Big Switch
Read the full article: What the Future Looks Like - the Pension Authority's Code of Practice and Master Trusts
Though the Irish Government chose a different path than that suggested by the Commission on Pensions for the State Pension age, it is inevitable that this controversial subject will be re-visited by future governments with further tweaks and adjustments made to ease the pressure on the exchequer.
The proposed introduction of AE can only be seen as a positive development, and it should result in ensuring that a much higher percentage of the working population are making provision for their retirement.
The Regulations are profoundly changing the Irish pensions landscape but whether their ultimate aim, of improving outcomes for scheme members, is achieved remains to be seen. Our Pensions Team has significant expertise in the application of the Code and the Regulations and should be contacted if there is any doubt about how to proceed.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.