Defined Benefit  

Pension equalisation cost expected to halve

Pension equalisation cost expected to halve

The cost of GMP equalisation to UK businesses is likely to be half the original £15bn predicted by the industry. 

Analysis by Hymans Robertson suggested the industry-wide GMP equalisation would cost £8bn, considerably lower than first feared. 

The conclusions from the pensions and risk consultancy’s analysis were based on a £30bn sample of UK pension schemes. 

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The issue stems from a landmark ruling on guaranteed minimum pensions last summer in which the High Court ruled trustees must equalise benefits between women and men who have GMPs because of contracted out benefits.

This will lead to final salary scheme members who contracted out receiving millions of pounds in back payments.

Matt Davis, head of GMP Equalisation at Hymans Robertson, said: "At the time of the judgment, the overall cost to UK businesses of providing extra benefits for GMP equalisation was widely estimated across the industry to be in the region £15bn. 

"It is really encouraging news for UK business that our more detailed analysis indicates that it will be closer to half that amount. This suggests that most companies will not see significant disruption to their long term funding strategies."

But Patrick Connolly, chartered financial planner at Chase de Vere, said the impact of the revised figure should not be underestimated.

He said: "While this is positive news for UK businesses, pension schemes may still have to find significant sums to meet the costs involved.

"Men and women should have equal pension rights, although working through the backlog of historical records will be time consuming, expensive and lead to uncertainty for individuals, who may not know the true value of their pension entitlement, face delays with pension transfers, and a GMP equalisation adjustment could even potentially invalidate existing fixed protection."

In January, a survey by XPS Pension Group found that the cost of accounting for GMP equalisation was less than 1 per cent of total liabilities for more than 57 per cent of defined benefit schemes. 

The group surveyed 90 of its clients with a December 31, 2018 year-end to calculate their GMP equalisation costs. 

In addition to the 57 per cent, 12 per cent of schemes faced costs of 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent, and 10 per cent of schemes had costs ranging from 2.5 per cent to 6 per cent. 

Mr Davies added: "The overall amount of the GMP uplift for a scheme depends on the total GMP pension that needs to be equalised for the scheme as a whole. This pension will typically have been built up between 1990 and 1997.  

"However after allowing for differences in total GMP pension, we’ve also seen clear differences in uplift costs due to specific scheme features.

"More generous schemes i.e. those where members can get their full pension around age 60 with inflationary pension increases provided year on year on non-GMP pension, are likely to see a relatively low increase to pension liabilities due to GMP equalisation. For these schemes, it tends to be females who will see the majority of the uplifts.