Pensions and employee benefits

The Hugh James employment law team regularly provides pension and employee benefits support to our commercial and corporate legal teams when advising on corporate financing, asset purchases, outsourcing matters and corporate dissolutions.

Pension specialist Louise Price leads our employment team in relation to pensions and employee benefits work and is a member of the Association of Pension Lawyers.

We regularly advise in relation to:

  • proposals to reduce pension benefits and the closure of final salary pension schemes;
  • internal dispute procedures;
  • consultation with employees regarding future benefit changes;
  • share option and incentive schemes (including EMI).

We have the pension legal expertise to also advise clients on the introduction of auto-enrolment and NEST.

Hugh James also has a specialist financial services team who can also assist in the establishment of new pension schemes.

The client base that we work for is extremely varied. We regularly act for employers from local authorities, public sector organisations and housing associations although we also represent high net worth individuals. We are highly regarded and renowned for our level of expertise in matters relating to pension and employment law.


Experience

Examples of some recent pensions and employee benefits matters that the Hugh James pensions and benefits team have worked on:

  • Advising and supporting a large Housing Association on the implications of winding up a group company or transferring employees from the group company which had employees who are members of the Social Housing Pension Scheme (SHPS). This involved detailed and complex advice on the triggering of a pension debt and the interrelation between the Pensions Regulator powers and the impact of the Welsh Assembly Government guidance on supporting non RSL companies within a group structure.
  • Advising a local authority on the pension implications in respect of a contract to outsource services and transfer of employees. This included advising on the Admission Agreement and Bond and drafting the TUPE and pension provisions, warranties and indemnities of the transfer agreement including exit management provisions.
  • Advising a large and high profile corporate client regarding a potential group claim by members of its final salary scheme. The dispute concerned alleged misrepresentations regarding the rules of the scheme and the calculation of accrued pension benefits.
  • Advising a public sector body regarding complaints received from members of their money purchase pension scheme in relation to a decision to award a pension with reduced benefits due to the employees’ failure to opt into the scheme.
  • Advised a public sector body regarding a group complaint from 40 members of their money purchase pension scheme on the basis that their contract of employment provided an express contractual entitlement to join a final salary pension scheme.
  • Advising a number of high net worth individuals regarding a possible group action for breach of contract in relation to an employer’s proposal to close their defined benefit pension scheme to future accrual. This involved advising the group regarding the Company’s proposal to break the final salary link and the alternative options presented to the members.
  • Advising a number of organisations regarding the information and consultation process to follow, including advising in relation to the Occupational and Personal Pension Schemes (Consultation by Employers and Miscellaneous) Regulations 2006, when closing their final salary pension scheme for future accrual or changing contribution rates.

Pensions auto enrolment

From 1 October 2012 changes to pensions law will affect all employers with at least one worker in the UK. All employers in the UK will have to automatically enrol staff into a qualifying pension scheme.

 Employers will be required to:

  • automatically enrol certain workers into a pension scheme;
  • make contributions on their workers’ behalf;
  • register with The Pensions Regulator (see their website below); and
  • provide workers with certain information about the changes and how they will affect them.

There are various steps to the auto enrolment process and these are labelled below. Look out for our regular blogs on each of the stages.

Pension auto enrolment stages

Step 1 – Know your staging date – this will be based on the number of people in your PAYE scheme and is set out on the Pensions Regulator website.

Step 2 – Assess your workforce to ascertain your ‘eligible jobholders’, ‘non-eligible jobholders’ and ‘entitled workers.’

Step 3 – Review your pension arrangements – do they meet the qualifying criteria for auto enrolment.

Step 4 – Communicate changes to your workforce.

Step 5 – Auto enrol your ‘eligible jobholders’ as from your staging date.

Step 6 – Register your qualifying scheme with the Pensions Regulator.

Step 7 – Contribute to your workers’ pensions.

Testimonials

Hugh James has significant strength-in-depth across contentious and non-contentious matters, including complex areas such as collective labour law, equal pay, TUPE and pensions.
Legal 500 2017

“Louise has assisted us with a number of projects from the delivery of interactive training sessions through to policy and procedural advice – the quality of her advice and the clarity of the guidance she offers is always second to none and based on an excellent technical knowledge and professional thoroughness”.
Simon Cox, HR Manager – UK & Ireland Invacare

“Louise is one sharp cookie – she has the ability to make employment law easy to follow and uses laymans terms!! Wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her.”
Kay Leigh, Head of HR, Linc

“Whenever I need employment advice, I am re-assured to know that Louise is only a phone call away.  Over the years, the advice I have received from Louise has always enabled us to deal with employment matters competently, minimising any risk to the organisation. Louise is adept at clearly explaining complex employment matters to lay people.  Her knowledge, contacts and advice have undoubtedly enabled us to achieve early resolution with employment matters that are often complex and difficult.”
Lesley Davies, Chief Executive, Rhondda Housing Association

“I have been working with Louise for 2 years and one of her greatest assets is her understanding of our organisation and the people within it. Louise is a great listener and always provides us with many options whilst advising us of any associated risks. We have a very honest an open working relationship and always ask for Louise by name – it is like having a personal legal advisor, she is always cheery and a real pleasure to work with.  If we have a problem we don’t hesitate to call.”
Amanda Charlesworth, HR Generalist, AALG Ltd 

Louise Price heads Hugh James’ pensions team, which was strengthened in 2012 by the arrival of consultant Helen Dymond, previously a partner at Cobbetts LLP. It handles standalone scheme advice, as well as corporate support matters.
The Legal 500 2013

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