Asking applicants about their pensions at job interviews could lead to heavy fines for employers, it emerged as the Pensions Bill received its second reading in Parliament last week.
The Bill was passed unopposed, but the government signalled its intention to table an amendment at the committee stage to outlaw ‘pension discrimination’.
Ministers are understood to be concerned that unscrupulous employers could undermine the Bill’s much-heralded personal accounts system by only hiring candidates who are willing to opt out of the scheme.
Manufacturers’ body the EEF wrote to MPs warning that it would oppose any clause allowing job applicants who were asked about pensions to go to employment tribunal.
David Yeandle, deputy director of employment policy at the EEF, wrote: “We understand that the government is planning an amendment designed to prevent employers from screening individuals out of the recruitment process because they want to save in a pension scheme such as personal accounts.
“This proposed amendment should not introduce the right for individuals to be able to seek, at an employment tribunal, compensation or other form of redress.”
However, the TUC insisted such a measure was vital to the success of the personal accounts system, which will force employers to contribute 3% of employees’ wages from 2012 unless the individual opts out.
Nigel Stanley, head of TUC campaigns, told Personnel Today: “This is not a burden on business, excessive red tape or hard to understand – thou shalt not ask about pensions at job interviews. “
Minister insists on 2012 pensions deadline
Pensions minister Mike O’Brien has insisted that the government will meet its 2012 pension reforms deadline.
It follows comments by Tim Jones, chief executive of the Personal Accounts Delivery Authority, suggesting that the target date of 2012 might not be achievable.
O’Brien was quizzed by MPs prior to the Pension Bill’s second reading on whether he was ‘totally confident’ that the scheme would begin on schedule. He said: “We intend it to begin in 2012, and the chief executive has been informed that that is what we intend.”