I can assure you that the SNP share your concerns. As you may be aware, the UK Government launched a consultation on the ‘employer debt’ regulations in March 2015 to look at this very issue. My SNP colleagues and I have called on the UK Government to publish their response to this important matter urgently in order to support struggling small businesses and help protect scheme members.
We must be mindful that the purpose of these rules is to protect pension benefits, however how they are currently framed creates problems for some stakeholders. The solution to this issue is not clear cut. There are a number of options for the Government to consider but each one has complications for the pension schemes, employers and scheme members.
The Pension and Lifetime Savings Association (then the NAPF) said that what created the most difficulty was the triggering of the debt with the departure of the last active scheme member working for a particular employer and addressing this could be a possible solution. While all members did not agree on a solution – on balance it thought the solution should be to change the way the debt was calculated. We encourage the Government to explore this possibility with businesses and scheme members at the earliest opportunity.
My colleague Ian Blackford MP, the SNP Pensions Spokesperson, has already written to the Pension’s Minister to raise this issue.
Rest assured, that my SNP colleagues and I will continue to urge the UK Government to weigh up the interests of employers with the need to protect benefits for scheme members.