Hogan Lovells

Key Dates

Determination dated 17 October 2018.


Summary

The Pensions Ombudsman has dismissed the complaint by a member's widow that his employer and the pension scheme trustee had failed to provide him with adequate information to enable him to make sound decisions about his options under the pension scheme.

The member was suffering from terminal cancer and opted to take voluntary early retirement on redundancy grounds in January 2015 but to defer drawing his pension. He had previously informed his line manager of his serious medical condition. He had been sent a statement saying (among other things):

"Following your death, your dependants may receive:

Mr L died in October 2015. As he had died in deferment, the five year guarantee did not apply and no lump sum was payable.

Mrs L complained about various matters, including that the employer had been under a duty to highlight the way in which death benefits would be affected by Mr L's decision how to take his pension, bearing in mind that the employer was aware of his terminal illness. She argued that the words "in the first five years of retirement" were ambiguous because they did not refer to the member having started his pension: Mr L thought that on leaving service he had retired status, although he had deferred the commencement of his pension.

Determination

The Ombudsman rejected Mrs L's complaint that the employer and the trustees had failed to provide Mr L with sufficient information to make sound decisions about his options under the scheme.

From the time Mr L's job was at risk until the time he left service, Mr L had asked the employer and the trustee different questions. He was given a copy of the long-term disability scheme rules and all his questions were answered promptly. The evidence of the questions he had asked suggested that death benefits payable under each option were not his top priority. Having received these answers, Mr L had confirmed that he had received the answer to his pension query and was "pretty much decided on what option to take". Following Scally, the employer had not breached any duty to provide information about pension scheme options.

The Ombudsman upheld complaints about delays in sending information, for which the trustee had already offered £1,600 compensation. This amount already offered exceeded the £1,000 the Ombudsman would award for serious non-financial injustice, so he declined to make any further award.



Date Accessed: 03/12/2021