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Pensions Act (Northern Ireland) 2015

Section 39: Automatic enrolment: transitional period for hybrid schemes

On 19th December 2012 the Government announced its intention to introduce retrospective legislation to clarify the law which sets out transitional arrangements for implementing automatic enrolment into workplace pension arrangements.

The transitional provisions differ depending on whether the jobholder is enrolled into a money purchase pension arrangement or is offered membership of a defined benefit pension arrangement. If the former is the case, then both employer and employee minimum contributions are phased in over a transitional period. If the latter, the employer can defer automatic enrolment until the end of a transitional period.

Under the current legislation, where a pension scheme offers both money purchase and defined benefit pensions under a single scheme (known as a hybrid scheme) an employer can postpone automatic enrolment for a jobholder who is eligible only to accrue money purchase benefits under a hybrid scheme.

The amendments in section 39(1) to (5) state that postponement under section 30 of the Pensions (No. 2) Act only applies where a defined benefit pension is offered to a jobholder (whether offered under a hybrid scheme or a defined benefit scheme). Employers offering money purchase benefits under a hybrid scheme will still be able to use the transitional arrangements under section 29 of the Pensions (No. 2) Act, which permit a gradual phasing in of the contribution requirements over a transitional period.

The legislation has retrospective effect. Section 39(6) and (7) set out that any employer who has deferred automatic enrolment under section 30 of the Pensions (No. 2) Act for a jobholder who is entitled only to membership of a money purchase arrangement under a hybrid scheme will need to automatically enrol that jobholder. They will also need to backdate employer contributions to 19th December 2012 (or their staging date if that is later). The jobholder will be able to choose whether they wish to pay their own contributions for the same period.

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