Can employers reduce their pension contributions?
- Yes, if contributions to a defined contribution (“DC”) scheme exceed statutory minimum for auto-enrolment purposes, it may be possible to reduce employer contributions to the statutory minimum, but not further.
- However, the processes required for reduction of DC employer contributions will necessitate obtaining legal advice:
- Reducing employer contributions may require changes to the employment contracts of affected staff (as does the furlough process).
- Reducing employer contributions may also require negotiation with trade unions or other staff representative forums.
- Where group personal pensions are used, the contractual format may not permit changes of employer contributions, and hence it may also be necessary to enter into a new contractual arrangement. Choosing a new group personal pension plan is a not insignificant task in itself.
- Employers with at least 50 employees are required to conduct a 60-day consultation process with affected employees if they propose to reduce employer contributions (but please see below).
- Finally, it may require a change to the scheme rules and engagement with the scheme trustees if the scheme is operated under trust.
- For DB schemes, specific considerations apply (see the last section, below).
The Act is intended to facilitate the rescue of businesses that are in financial difficulty by preventing suppliers from invoking certain termination clauses under a supply contract, and therefore maintaining supply of goods and services to the business whilst plans to save the business can be considered.
Supply contracts often contain a clause enabling them to terminate the contract, or take other steps such as requiring payment in advance, in the event that the customer enters an insolvency procedure.
This new Act removes any such contractual right by dis-applying any clause that allows the supplier to terminate the contract, or take any other step, due to the customer entering an insolvency process.
Suppliers are also prevented from demanding payment for pre-insolvency debts owed by the customer as a condition of continued supply.
Additionally, where the supplier had a contractual right to terminate the contract due to an event occurring before the customer went into the insolvency process (whether or not linked to payment issues), the supplier loses this right for the duration of the insolvency process.
We recommend that ongoing support is provided to all MHFA’s beyond completion of the MHFA training. It is necessary to do refresher training (approx. every 3 years) and ideally ongoing ‘continued professional development’ should be provided as well as regular opportunities for debriefing / seeking support. One way of supporting your MHFAs in the workplace is by creating a buddy system amongst the MHFAs. That way the individuals carrying out the role of MHFAs have a support structure in place amongst themselves. All trained MHFAs can also reach out to management to discuss any concerns they have or to seek any further support they need.
The obvious option to reduce the cost of your workforce is redundancy. However, that also reduces the number of employees and therefore your capacity.
Despite remote hearings being the default position at present, formal permission will still be required by the court and a template order was circulated with the guidance. This template sets out the relevant directions and recitals to include in your order. An application to the COP for a remote hearing will not be required.
Where an employer is proposing to dismiss:
- 100 or more employees at one establishment within a 90-day period, consultation must begin at least 45 days before the first dismissal takes effect
- Between 20 and 99 employees within a 90-day period, consultation must begin at least 30 days before the first dismissal takes effect
- If you are proposing to dismiss less than 20 employees then there are no minimum time limits but you must adhere to a fair process which will involve individual consultation and providing the employee with a right of an appeal