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21 October 2011: Pensions Ombudsman emphasises the importance of good communication: Know your pension entitlements

 

Pensions Ombudsman emphasises the importance of good communication: Know your pension entitlements

Following recent high profile job losses and redundancies, and with the prospect of many people in both public and private sector employment taking retirement in the months ahead, the Pensions Ombudsman emphasises the importance of people being properly informed about their entitlements and benefits.  People who leave or retire from employment have specific rights to information about their benefits under the Pensions Act and its associated Regulations - but effective communication may require more than just “ticking all the boxes”.

“Pensions are a complicated business.  It is in everyone’s interest to ensure that they understand the nature of their entitlements and the actual benefits that they will receive.  Too often, I find that people’s expectations do not match their entitlements.  In some cases that is the result of administrative deficiencies which I find through independent review of complaints”, he said.  “In others, it is because scheme members don’t understand the communications they receive”.

“Increases in life expectancy mean that people are living longer in retirement and their pensions become very important.  While the legislation sets out the information members should receive, each person has a responsibility to ensure that they have a clear grasp of all their entitlements.  If in doubt, go back to your information provider to seek clarification.  The first port of call should be to the pension scheme trustees or whoever provided the initial information about your pension. When you receive the information you are entitled to get, you should satisfy yourself that you understand it. You may wish to consider taking independent professional advice, given the importance of the decisions you will need to make and the options you will be required to exercise.

“Where somebody has exhausted all the available avenues and is not satisfied that the benefits they have been told about reflect their entitlements, my Office is available to examine the matter. But please remember that this Office can only ensure that individuals receive their correct entitlements as set out in the rules of their pension arrangements – which may not be the same as they might believe they are entitled to.

“During the past 12 months we have seen a significant increase in this kind of query and have met with lots of situations that could have been prevented by better engagement and clearer communication between the individual and the pension scheme administrators.

“There is no doubt that many complaints and enquiries arise because of poor or inadequate communication.  Those responsible for administering both private and public sector pension schemes should try to ensure that their communications are effective, clear and understandable.  They need to afford members the facility to raise and discuss problems or concerns they may have.  I encourage pension providers to recognise the importance of clear communication between parties, to communicate effectively in plain English and to give people the help they need in these difficult times”.

Note for Editors

The Pensions Ombudsman investigates in an independent and impartial manner, complaints of financial loss due to maladministration and disputes of fact or law, in relation to occupational pension schemes, Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) and trust Retirement Annuity Contracts (RACs).  He may award compensation for financial loss.  He is a statutory officer and exercises his functions independently of government and the pensions industry.  He reports to the Houses of the Oireachtas.  There is no cost to the individual complainant for this service.

Paul Kenny is the Pensions Ombudsman.  He was appointed Ombudsman in April 2003. 

For further information contact Mr. Paul Kenny, Pensions Ombudsman at (01) 647 1650, or see www.pensionsombudsman.ie

21st October 2011

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