Firms forced to consult on pension changes

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The Independent Online

The Government moved to stop businesses making controversial changes to their pension schemes without consulting employees yesterday, laying down regulations which will force them to open discussions with staff at least 60 days before any major change.

The new regulations were laid before Parliament yesterday and will be debated in the House of Commons before coming into force on 6 April. The move comes after a number of companies, including high-profile organisations such as Rentokil Initial and the Co-op, have tried to make controversial alterations to staff pension benefits without consulting staff and unions.

The new rules will be phased in, affecting employers with more than 150 staff from this April, and companies with between 100 and 150 staff from April 2007. Smaller companies will not be affected until 2008.

Stephen Timms, the Pensions minister, said: "I am very keen that, where we can, we enable members of pension schemes to have a more active role in the decisions that are taken on their behalf. These regulations will enhance members' understanding of how their schemes work and give them an important part in the running of those schemes."