BHS chiefs' pensions protected as staff lost out

BHS chiefs' pensions protected as staff lost out

The BHS Pension Scheme for its senior executives was much better funded than the one for the main body of staff, with a defict of just £1m compared to a hole of £296m for regular staff, a report by the regulator into the collapse of the firm has revealed.

The Pension Regulator's report gives a history of events in the saga to save BHS workers from taking a big hit to their retirement nest eggs after the company collapsed in 2016.

In the end a hard won £363m settlement with Sir Philip Green, former owner of BHS, was reached to fund a new independent pension scheme.

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This will give future pensioners the option of the same starting pension as they were originally promised by BHS, and higher benefits than they would get from the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).

Elsewhere in the report, TPR stated it has learnt from its involvement with the BHS pension scheme, and has recognised a need for more government support.

The regulator revealed it has taken steps to secure additional funding from the Department for Work and Pensions, "to address challenges" across a number of areas, including dealing with higher volumes of casework more quickly and proactively.

It also plans to review its internal processes and ways of working and to recruit additional staff to its case teams.

Nicola Parish, TPR executive director of frontline regulation, said: ““We are already acting more quickly to intervene where we consider schemes to be underfunded, or where there are indications that employers may be avoiding their responsibilities. As part of our TPR Future programme, we are reviewing our internal processes and ways of working to be more efficient, more outcome-focused and communicate clearly to schemes what we expect from them.

“In addition we are recruiting staff to increase proactive casework, ensure early engagement with schemes and progress investigations more efficiently.”

According to the report, key areas where the regulator recognises that  it could have performed better are the timeliness of our engagement and the clarity of its communications.

"In particular, we recognise the importance of setting out clearly and robustly our expectations to pension trustees and sponsoring employers in cases where the affordability of deficit repair contributions is an issue for the employer.

"We have reduced the time it takes to conclude funding cases, and our 2016-2017 perceptions survey shows we have improved the rating of TPR being clear on our reasons for opening recovery plan cases (from 59 per cent to 78 per cent), with satisfaction with management of such cases remaining high (78 per cent).

In a shot across the bows to other employers, it added that, "in light of our experiences from the BHS case and other anti-avoidance investigations, we will not hesitate to investigate, where appropriate, when we suspect that action has been taken to weaken the position of a DB pension scheme".

"We are committed to using our statutory powers more often where we believe there is avoidance activity."