Legal Services: Pensions

Navigating a shifting pensions landscape

Legal advice, technology and services to help pensions trustees

The provision of future pension benefits, as well as funding and managing historic pension schemes are increasingly complex areas for UK corporates and pension scheme trustees.

We advise on all aspects of UK pensions law and provide business-focused advice to ensure clients avoid sanctions and reputational risk, and drive meaningful cashflow and capital management. We combine our legal advice with expertise from pensions professionals to form a joined-up pensions service. We also draw on the expertise of colleagues in other disciplines including tax, corporate governance and investment to provide a complete business solution. 

Technology and innovation are at the heart of everything we do, allowing us to combine law and business to deliver outstanding commercial results and cost-effective full service solutions.

Challenges facing pensions trustees

Tougher regulations

The Pensions Regulator now has stronger powers with increased personal responsibility for individuals and employers. They are now also increasingly proactive and assertive in using these powers. 

Funding pressures

All schemes should have a long-term funding target agreed between the trustees and company. Trustees will be challenged if they rely on the company's covenant for more than a few years without suitable security and/or guarantees. Where a business make payments to other stakeholders (e.g. dividends), they must pay off any pension deficit over a short period.

Corporate reporting standards

Businesses that exceed two of three thresholds (£36m turnover; £18m total balance sheet asset; 250 employees) in a financial year must now explain how they have considered stakeholders’ interests when performing their reporting duties.

Reputational risk

Mismanagement of schemes can lead to negative publicity, which can have an adverse impact on a business’ reputation and finances.

How we can help

Strategic clarity for scheme funding and corporate activities

We create a well-managed scheme with a clear strategy, which leads to better decisions and fewer surprises along the route. At the start of a valuation process or relevant corporate activity, we help you establish how to deal with the regulatory process and how this should influence the company and trustees approach. As part of our strategy, we:

  • Secure Liabilities
    There are a variety of options available for trustees and employers to ensure the long-term security of their pension schemes. 
    As leaders in this field, we can provide extensive, unbiased, clear advice on your options. Working alongside our actuarial and investment colleagues, we help you develop and execute strategies to secure pension schemes in a way that meets your specific and strategic needs. 
  • Mitigate Risks
    Businesses must balance the need to ensure scheme security against demands on their own cashflow and other assets.  This pressure is compounded as schemes mature and the need to balance security and cash flow demands in order to pay pensions becomes increasingly challenging.
    We work with our specialist investment colleagues to advise you on alternative funding solutions dependent on your individual circumstances and strategic objectives.  
  • Redesign Benefits 
    Our innovative, real-world approach means we can advise trustees and employers on how to reduce scheme liabilities.
    Our deep experience includes providing advice in relation to benefit redesign, advising on changing the way in which discretions are exercised and obtaining court rulings allowing schemes to change the basis of indexation used when calculating benefits.

Review and Improve Governance

We identify and address any weaknesses, perceived or otherwise, in the governance structure, including conflicts of interest to ensure there is clarity on positions taken and processes for decision making.

Evidencing Engagement

We help document the process followed and intention behind action, on the assumption that it will be available to all parties. This should include company/trustee board minutes and detail on dividend recommendations, such as supporting analysis showing the appropriateness, sign off and payment process.

Defined Contribution Pensions and Other Employee Benefits

UK employers must have pension arrangements and provide a minimum level of pension contributions for their employees. However, many employers provide more generous pension contributions, along with benefits payable on the ill-health or death of employees while they remain employed.  

We work closely with colleagues in our work-based savings and benefits team to advise employers on the options available, including:

  • Traditional trust based pension schemes with the company as the sponsor
  • Commercial master trusts 
  • Employer arranged personal pension plans held with commercial pension providers 

We help solve your pensions issues by advising on:

  • Consolidating pension arrangements
  • Auto-enrolment issues including re-enrolment and dealing with temporary employees and employees on secondment from abroad 
  • Participating in and transferring members to master trusts 
  • Death in service benefits
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