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Pension disputes

Handling pension disputes

What can you do if you have a dispute regarding your workplace pension and what you can expect to happen?

In the first instance, members can raise issues with their pension scheme administrator and their employer to get them resolved.

If you’ve done this and the issue remains unresolved it may be reasonable to make a formal complaint.

Prospect supports members in resolving problems with their occupational pension scheme, subject to our usual rules and processes.

Who’s responsible?

To resolve a dispute regarding your pension it may be necessary to work out who’s responsible for the dispute.

The majority of pension complaints concern pension scheme administrators, as they are responsible for the bulk of the administration of your pension.

However, they do not have sole responsibility over the administration of all aspects of your pension because your employer has some administration duties. These relate specifically to: paying your contributions and the employer contributions to the scheme and for final salary schemes' information about pay and service.

If your dispute is about incorrect information being sent to the pension scheme administrators or contributions not being paid, you should contact your employer in the first instance to resolve the issue.

If your dispute is about any other aspect of your pension, you should contact the pension scheme administrators. 

What’s gone wrong?

The first step before making a formal complaint is to determine what has gone wrong and the implications of it. The four terms for pension complaints that are useful to understand are: maladministration, financial loss, loss of expectation and stress and inconvenience.

  • Maladministration – inefficient or incompetent management of your pension.
  • Financial loss – maladministration has resulted in you losing out financially.
  • Loss of expectation – maladministration has led you to expect a greater entitlement than exists.
  • Stress and inconvenience – maladministration has resulted in stress and inconvenience to resolve the situation and take appropriate action for your personal finances.

When you write your complaint you need to be concise but comprehensive. Explain clearly what you are unhappy about, how it has affected you and how you would like it to be rectified.

You may wish to contact Prospect at this point for support with your complaint. The level of support provided will depend on the nature of the complaint. 

Internal dispute resolution procedure

We recommend reviewing the complaints procedure for your pension scheme before submitting a complaint. Normally pension complaints regarding pension schemes need to be made in writing addressed to the Complaints Manager. We would expect your complaint to be acknowledged and to then be investigated.

Pension schemes normally have a two stage internal dispute resolution procedure. Stage one is for the initial complaints and stage two is to appeal against the determination of the stage one complaint.

Pension Ombudsman and Financial Ombudsman

If you are unhappy with the final response on your complaint you can escalate the issue to the Pensions Ombudsman (PO).

The PO is the impartial adjudicator who makes final and binding decisions regarding pension complaints on pension administration.

In order for complaints to be referred to the PO, members must first go through their pension scheme's complaints procedure, commonly called internal dispute resolution.

The PO remit covers all complaints relating to the administrator of your pension scheme, while complaints regarding mis-selling of pensions comes under the Financial Ombudsman.

Members with pensions who have been transferred to the Pension Protection Fund have a separate Ombudsman to consider their complaints, called the Pension Protection Fund - Pensions Ombudsman.

The PPF Pensions Ombudsman is likely to have dealt with a similar complaint to yours in the past. You can use their website to search determinations to view the Ombudsman’s decisions on similar cases.

This can be useful to understand the considerations the Ombudsman makes when considering complaints and whether to upheld them or not. You can view their previous decisions here.

Prospect and pension complaints

We can offer guidance on pensions legislation, scheme rules and Ombudsman precedents to assist members with their complaints.

If appropriate, we can lobby the scheme and your employer directly on your behalf. We can also support members to escalate complaints with merit to the Pensions Ombudsman.