On 1 October, the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations come into force, bringing with them a raft of new rights for every employee, and new responsibilities for every employer.
Over the past six months, myself and the former Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) secretary of state, Alan Johnson, have addressed some key points of the legislation for Personnel Today. The last area for discussion is pensions.
Our aim has always been to allow pension schemes to continue operating, by and large, as they do now. However, the pensions provision in the age regulations will now not come into force until 1 December 2006, following industry concerns about the changes they need to make to pension schemes.
This delay will allow us to consider whether further amendments would provide greater certainty for employers and schemes. We will be consulting informally on some possible amendments next month, and expect to bring in changes as soon as possible after 1 December, to give further clarity.
The bulk of the exemptions will remain the same. The regulations will continue to apply to occupational pension schemes and employer contributions to personal pensions. This won't extend to state pensions, which will be completely unaffected. In addition, pension rights accrued before 1 December 2006 will not be affected.
Other regulations will be clarified. For example, we are assessing the rules that relate to length of service for trustees, flexible retirement, bridging pensions, and ill-health pensions.
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We encourage those with an interest to actively participate in the informal consultation that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is holding in October, to assess the future flexibility any additional exemptions will allow. Details of the consultation will be on the DWP website.
Pension rules aside, the bulk of the age regulations are almost in force. So, if employers have concerns about any age-based aspects of their HR procedures, they can consult the full regulations on the DTI website.
The Acas website will also continue to provide guidance on the regulations, and further guidance on the pension provisions will be available towards the end of the year on both the DTI and DWP websites.
The new laws a