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Ill health early retirement (“IHER”) settlement update - June 2022

IMPORTANT – THIS CONCERNS ANY CLAIM YOU MAY HAVE FOR PAYMENT/BENEFITS UNDER THE COURT SETTLEMENT IN THE FUTURE

We wrote to members in March 2022 about the settlement of the Trustee’s Court application over certain IHER benefits payable from the Fund. As stated in that letter, the settlement was approved by a Judge at a hearing on 24 February 2022. A link to a copy of that letter is below.

https://www.mnrpf.co.uk/docs/MNRPF_Member_Post_Approval_letter.pdf

The Trustee is now in the process of implementing the settlement. In summary, increased benefits and/or payments will only be given under the settlement to certain members who:

We will write to those who might be eligible to receive a payment or additional benefits under the settlement.

Claims process for certain members – Category C

As part of the settlement, there is a particular claims process for Category C members who are those who:

  1. were in service on 8 October 1993, and had been in service long enough at that time to have qualified for an IHER pension (had new IHER pensions not been stopped on 8 October 1993); and
  2. left service before Normal Pension Age due to permanent unfitness for sea service at the time they left service.

We will write to all of the potential Category C members who we are able to trace and provide them with details of how to make a claim if they believe that they may be eligible.

If you think you may be eligible to claim as a current Category C member, but you have not received a letter about the claims process by mid-July, then please get in contact with us. If you do not make a claim, you will not be considered for any payment under the settlement.

If you know any member who left service after 8 October 1993 because they were permanently unfit for further sea service, and they have not received a letter from Mercer by mid-July 2022, please ask them to contact Mercer. If they have died and you know their personal representatives or survivors, then please also suggest to them that they contact Mercer. If the member has died, you can provide their name and any contact details for their personal representatives to Mercer (no other personal information please). We do not have contact details for everyone who could benefit from the settlement (including the survivors of members and their estates).

If you have received a letter about the claims process, then please observe the deadlines in the letter. If a deadline is missed, you risk being excluded from the process.

To make a claim in the settlement as a Category C member, you will need to provide us with information and evidence.

Contact details

Please contact our Pension Administrators, Mercer Employee Benefits, at the postal or email address below.

The Mercer helpline

You can call our trained helpline agents on the telephone helpline below. This is a dedicated phone line for this claims process.

If it would help to have a helpline agent call you at a pre-arranged time and day, please let Mercer know and they will be happy to set that up for you.

Freephone helpline telephone number: 0800 197 6923

You can also write to us or email us

Our address for enquiries by post is:

Merchant Navy Ratings Pension Fund
Post Handling Team
Maclaren House
Talbot Road
Stretford
Manchester
M32 0FP

Our email address for enquiries is: mnrpf.mailings@mercer.com

P&O Ferries – considerations for members

The recent news in regard to P & O Ferries will be concerning for many members. Fortunately, the nature of the Fund ensures that members benefits remain secure. This is explained in the recent letter posted to members in February, a copy of which can be found by clicking the following link.

Approval judgment in the Ill Health Early Retirement (IHER) case

The Judge, Mrs Justice Bacon has now issued her judgment approving the settlement in the IHER case

A copy of this can be found here

In summary the Judge was satisfied that the settlement is for the benefit of all represented persons (employers and members).

By way of background, the case was brought by the Trustee in February 2019 to ask the Court a series of related and complicated questions about the introduction of IHER benefits in the Fund and the changes that were made to those benefits.

The uncertainty over these questions was such that the Trustee was advised to ask the Court for directions on what the correct legal position was. This type of Court application by pension scheme trustees is typical in these situations.

As is also typical, the Trustee has taken a neutral role in the case. Representatives with their own independent legal teams that comprised solicitors and barristers were appointed to argue the case on behalf of the members and the employers.

Before the trial took place, the parties applied for the case to be adjourned to allow a settlement to be agreed. A renegotiated settlement was agreed on 18 February 2022 which allowed the hearing to go forward before the Judge on 24 February 2022 to consider whether it should be approved.

The Judge summarises the settlement process in her judgment.

As the settlement has been approved by the Court, the Trustee can now proceed with implementing it and expects to send letters to members in late March with further information.

Ill Health Retirement – settlement approved by the High Court on 24 February 2022

Update

The hearing to consider approval of the settlement in the ill-health early retirement (“IHER”) benefits case took place on 24 February 2022.

We are pleased to report that Mrs Justice Bacon DBE has now approved the settlement on the basis that it is for the benefit of both the members and employers.

John Oldland, independent Chair of the Trustee, comments “The Trustee welcomes the certainty that this settlement brings for members and employers and that it avoids the need for further time and cost for the case to go to a full trial. The Trustee has done all it can to facilitate the long settlement process to reach the point where the settlement can now be implemented. The Trustee, in conjunction with its advisors, will now be working very hard to ensure payments under the settlement are paid to affected members in the shortest possible timeframe”.

The Trustee can now progress with implementing the settlement and will send letters to members in March with further information.

Further background about the case and the settlement process can be found in previous updates.

More information

If you would like more information, you can call our trained helpline agents on the freephone helpline below. This is a dedicated phone line for this case.

Helpline freephone number: 0800 197 6923

The helpline agents are only able to explain the settlement in general terms as previously described. They are not able to provide any views or advice about the expected outcome in your particular case e.g., whether you will qualify and, if so, what compensation you might receive.

You can also write to us or email us at the address below. Again, we are not able to provide any views or advice about the expected outcome in your particular case.

Our address for enquiries by post is:

Merchant Navy Ratings Pension Fund
c/o Mercer Employee Benefits
Post Handling Centre U
St James’s Tower
7 Charlotte Street
Manchester
M1 4DZ

Our email address for enquiries is: mnrpf.mailings@mercer.com

Keeping your records safe

As noted several times before, in relation to the IHER case, the key thing that you need to do now, if you are not in receipt of an IHER pension but think you might be affected by the IHER case, is keep safe any relevant records that you have.

In summary, the Trustee strongly recommends that, where possible, if you were in service on 8 October 1993 (even if you were in between ships on that date), you retain any medical and employment history and/or details about your past health. This is particularly around the time of leaving Merchant Navy service as a Rating. If you are incapable of doing so or are the survivor of a member who was in service on 8 October 1993, the Trustee recommends that the family / survivors / estates of the member retain any relevant details and/or records.

Ill Health Retirement – High Court hearing is going ahead on 24 February 2022

Update

Members will note from the letter sent by the Trustee in early February 2022, that a revised settlement was close to being agreed to in relation to the High Court case relating to the ill-health early retirement (“IHER”) benefits paid by the Fund.

We are pleased to report that revised settlement terms have now been finalised and signed. However, they remain subject to Court approval. They will be considered by the Judge for approval at a hearing, and the Judge will only approve the settlement if it is considered to be in the overall interests of both the members and the employers.

The Court hearing has now been scheduled for 24 February 2022 before Mrs Justice Bacon DBE. We will write to members again once the outcome of the hearing is known and some post-hearing steps have taken place. This will probably be in March 2022.

Further background

By way of background, in August 2021, the Trustee wrote to members and explained the settlement which had been reached between the parties. A copy of that letter is available in the link here.

The previously agreed settlement has now been updated to take account of the newly identified historical issues. However, no changes have been made to the details previously provided about the members who may be eligible or to the process to consider claims as explained in the August 2021 letter.

Watching the hearing

If any member wishes to watch the Court hearing remotely, please could they contact Mercer who will then pass on their request to the Court. Mercer’s contact details are set out below. If you have previously notified Mercer that you wanted to watch or listen to the Court hearing, then you do not need to do anything - your details will be passed to the Court.

More information

Further updates about the case may need to be given at short notice. It takes time and cost to send communications by post to members. We will be writing to you by post about the outcome of the approval hearing after it takes place. However, other further updates will only be posted on the Fund website.

Please let us know, via Mercer, if you are not able to access the website and would instead like to receive updates by post.

If you would like more information, you can call our trained helpline agents on the freephone helpline below. This is a dedicated phone line for this case.

Helpline freephone number: 0800 197 6923

The helpline agents are only able to explain the settlement in general terms as described in the August 2021 letter in the link above. They are not able to provide any views or advice about the expected outcome in your particular case e.g., whether you will qualify and, if so, what compensation you might receive.

You can also write to us or email us at the address below. Again, we are not able to provide any views or advice about the expected outcome in your particular case.

Our address for enquiries by post is:

Merchant Navy Ratings Pension Fund
c/o Mercer Employee Benefits
Post Handling Centre U
St James’s Tower
7 Charlotte Street
Manchester
M1 4DZ

Our email address for enquiries is: mnrpf.mailings@mercer.com

Keeping your records safe

As noted several times before, in relation to the IHER case, the key thing that you need to do now, if you are not in receipt of an IHER pension but think you might be affected by the IHER case, is keep safe any relevant records that you have.

In summary, the Trustee strongly recommends that, where possible, if you were in service on 8 October 1993 (even if you were in between ships on that date), you retain any medical and employment history and/or details about your past health. This is particularly around the time of leaving Merchant Navy service as a Rating. If you are incapable of doing so or are the survivor of a member who was in service on 8 October 1993, the Trustee recommends that the family / survivors / estates of the member retain any relevant details and/or records.

An update on the IHER benefits case and other related matters to the Fund

The Trustee is writing to all members in early February 2022 to provide an update on the Ill health early retirement benefits case and other matters related to the Fund, and a copy of that letter is available to download by clicking here.

The Fund’s move to online communications

The Trustee plans to reduce the amount of paper that it uses when sending information out to members. We plan to stop sending paper communications from the Fund towards the end of 2022 and replace them with digital versions instead.

Why are we doing this?

We want to make it easier for you to get communications, and we are encouraging as many members as possible to sign up to receive online communications. Receiving online documents means you can get them securely wherever you are, even if you are away from home.

The Fund wants to reduce its carbon footprint and the amount of money it spends on printing and posting documents to members, which can run into tens of thousands of pounds each year.

e-comms

Instead, we’re asking members to sign up for a Benpal online account and digital communications.

What do I need to do?

Click here to complete the form to register for Benpal.

You’ll need to provide a few pieces of information so that we can verify that it is you. Once we have done that, the Fund administrator, Mercer, will send you an email that’ll allow you to activate your Benpal online account. This account will hold information about your Fund pension and is only accessible by you.

When you have activated your Benpal account, you will be able to access it with your username and password wherever you are, as often as you like.

You will also be entered into a draw to win one of five £100 M&S vouchers if you activate your Benpal account before 31 December 2021!

Note:

If you are over 75, paper communications will continue as normal unless you tell us you want to get digital versions.

Update On High Court Ill Health Benefits Case

IHER Settlement approval hearing postponed to the week of 21 February 2022

As part of a routine exercise to ensure that the benefits being paid in practice are in line with both the Fund’s current and historic trust deed and rules (which are the formal documents governing the Fund and set out the benefits), the Trustee has identified some potential areas of misalignment. Two particular issues identified could result in potentially very material additional liabilities for the Fund. Further details about this are provided below.

The Trustee is liaising over these issues with the representative beneficiaries’ and employers’ advisers in the case about ill health early retirement (“IHER”) benefits. However, in order to allow those parties to the IHER case sufficient time to consider fully the impact of these issues on the settlement, the hearing to consider approval of the settlement will now need to be postponed.

The hearing was due to take place remotely in the week of 22 November 2021. Because of the potential areas of misalignment, the Court has agreed to postpone the hearing to consider approval of the settlement until the week of 21 February 2022. This is the earliest new date that could be obtained in the circumstances.

The Trustee appreciates that this further postponement of the hearing to consider approval of the settlement is very disappointing to the members affected by the settlement. All parties are working as fast possible to resolve the position.

If any member wishes to watch the High Court hearing remotely, please could they contact Mercer who will then pass on their details and their request to the High Court. Mercer’s contact details are set out at the end of this update.

The identified issues

The two issues referred to above concern a potential underpayment of benefits to members.

Although members are receiving in practice what the Trustee believes was intended in relation to these two issues, the historic rules of the Fund do not fully reflect that. The historic rules provide for additional unintended benefits in relation to:

The potential amounts that could be involved are very significant and are still being investigated.

These are not issues which were to be decided in the Court case. They may affect members across the Fund as well as certain members affected by the IHER Court case.

The Trustee is also investigating a number of other potential issues and is placing the highest level of priority and urgency on this process. This further review process is complex and will take time; the Trustee will provide updates in due course if any additional issues are identified which are likely to be significant to the finances of the Fund.

What does this mean for you

There is nothing that you need to do

As noted above, the Trustee believes that if you are receiving a pension, you are already receiving the intended benefits in relation to these two issues. If as a result of these two issues, additional benefits are due, they will be paid by the Fund.

You have recently been sent the 2021 member newsletter which includes a Summary Funding Statement. This notes that as at 31 March 2021 the Fund was 96% funded and shows that the Fund was well funded before allowing for the two new issues which have been identified.

To the extent the new issues result in additional liabilities for the Fund, the Trustee will need to ensure that the additional benefits will be funded through investment returns and/or additional contributions collected from the employers in the usual way. At the current time the Trustee fully expects that the Fund will be able to pay all of the benefits as they fall due given the covenant from Fund employers.

Additional independent trustee directors

Melanie Cusack and Lionel Sampson, two new independent trustee directors, were appointed to the Trustee board on 25 October 2021. The added experience and assistance that they bring to the board is very welcome. They are now fully involved as part of the board in dealing with these new issues.

Documents for the IHER case

As we have said several times before, in relation to the IHER case, the key thing that you need to do now, if you are not in receipt of an IHER pension but think you might be affected by the IHER case, is keep safe any relevant records that you have.

In summary, the Trustee strongly recommends that, where possible, if you were in service on 8 October 1993 (even if you were in between ships on that date), you retain any medical and employment history and/or details about your past health. This is particularly around the time of leaving Merchant Navy service as a rating. If you are incapable of doing so or are the survivor of a member who was in service on 8 October 1993, the Trustee recommends that the family/survivors/estates of the member retain any relevant details and/or records.

If you would like more information about the proposed settlement, you can call our trained helpline agents on the freephone helpline below. This is a dedicated phone line for this case.

Helpline freephone number: 0800 197 6923

The helpline agents are only able to explain the proposed settlement in general terms. They are not able to provide any views or advice about the expected outcome in your particular case e.g. whether you will qualify and, if so, what compensation you might receive.

You can also write to us or email us at the address below. Again, we are not able to provide any views or advice about the expected outcome in your particular case.

Our address for enquiries by post is:

Merchant Navy Ratings Pension Fund
c/o Mercer Employee Benefits
Post Handling Centre U
St James’s Tower
7 Charlotte Street
Manchester
M1 4DZ

Our email address for enquiries is: Mnrpfmailings@mercer.com

Update on High Court ill health benefits case – 18 October 2021

Settlement approval hearing postponed to November 2021

As part of the normal course of running the Fund, the Trustee has as a matter of good governance begun an exercise to ensure that the benefits which are being paid in practice are in line with both the Fund’s current and historic trust deed and rules, as well as legislation. Bearing in mind the many years over which pension schemes operate, and the changes in law and practice which are introduced during that time span, this type of exercise is usual. It often reveals aspects of management and administration that are not aligned with the legal requirements. These “mis-alignments” are often fairly minor.

The Trustee is still in the early stages of the exercise, but so far it has revealed two areas where a mis-alignment results in potentially very material additional liabilities for the Fund. Much greater urgent investigation is needed before the full impact of these discoveries is understood. In the interim, the Trustee determined that it was right to explain the issue to employers, who could potentially need to pay significant additional contributions as a result.

The Trustee and its advisers are investigating the issues urgently and liaising with the representative beneficiaries’ and employers’ advisers.

This development has impacted the process to agree the ill health settlement. The hearing to consider approval of the ill health settlement was due to take place on 13 October 2021. The Court has agreed to adjourn the hearing to the week of 22 November 2021 , so that the representative beneficiaries’ and employers’ advisers can assess what effect, if any, this new issue may have on the settlement and the approval application.

If any member wishes to watch the hearing remotely, please could they contact Mercer, who will then pass on their details and their request to the Court.

HM Government launches ‘MoneyHelper’ website

The Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) has consolidated The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS), Money Advice Service (MAS) and Pension Wise into a single brand called MoneyHelper. Pension Wise will retain its existing brand within MoneyHelper, but TPAS and MAS will be referred to as MoneyHelper in future.

All three brands are now hosted on MoneyHelper’s website, which is now live at www.moneyhelper.org.uk. The existing websites at www.pensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk, www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk and www.pensionwise.gov.uk now redirect to the MoneyHelper site.

If you have been asked to verify your address, it is important that you do

You may have received a letter recently asking that you complete and return a form to confirm your current address. We understand that you may be concerned about fraud, and may be unsure that this request is genuine. We would like to assure all recipients of such a request that it is genuine, and it is so that we make sure all our records are as up to date as possible.

If you have received a form, please complete and return it as soon as possible, so that you do not miss out on receiving vital information about the Fund.

If you have misplaced your form, you can download one here. Please choose the one relevant to you:

You are the member or you are receiving a pension from the Fund

You are receiving a spouse or dependant’s pension from the Fund

You are the personal representative responsible for handling the estate of a member of the Fund

Alternatively, you can complete our online verification form at www.contactpensionsadmin.com/greenwichverification

Keeping your personal information safe is very important to us. Only when you have returned this form or completed the electronic version can we update our records.

Statement on recent news articles

The Trustee is aware of the article that appeared in the Times on Monday 31st May. The Trustee wishes to assure members that their benefits are secure. The Chair of Trustees has released the following statement:

“The overriding concern of the Trustee is the ability to pay members benefits in full and on time. As a multi-employer, last man standing, pension scheme, we’re always alive to the possibility of a participating employer struggling to pay contributions. If and when that happens it is a cause of concern as the knock-on effect is that other employers are required to meet the “default” contributions. The Trustee is very alive to the need to treat all participating employers fairly and equally.”

The Trustee would like to re-assure all members that their benefits remain secure and will continue to be paid in full and on time.

Trustee Board update

The RMT and Employers Group have recently agreed that the current Trustee Board will continue in its current form until the end of July. This is so it can complete the Fund’s valuation and progress its work around resolving the ill-health court case at a critical time.

Merchant Navy Ratings Pension Fund - Regulatory intervention report

On 16 December 2020, the Pensions Regulator published its Regulatory Intervention Report in regard to the MNRPF. This document reports on its findings on the governance of the Fund and relates directly to matters highlighted in the communication issued to all members by John Oldland in March 2020 and the update provided in the recent Newsletter to members. Click on the links to see copies of these documents on this website.

Since the Determination Panel hearing on 27 February 2020 the Trustee Board has been working effectively together, in the interests of the MNRPF and its members.

The announcement from the Pensions Regulator confirms the outcome of its investigation and closely aligns with what John Oldland mentioned in his letter.

You can view the Pension Regulators report at: https://www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/en/document-library/enforcement-activity/regulatory-intervention-reports/merchant-navy-ratings-pension-fund-regulatory-intervention-report

The Trustee would like to stress that, throughout the difficulties that led to the Determinations Panel hearing and since, the day-to-day affairs of the Fund (e.g. payment of Benefits, collection and investment of contributions, triennial valuation and annual funding update, annual audit, etc.) have continued to be effectively managed by the Trustee, with the assistance of its advisers. So hopefully members have seen little or no change in the routine operation of the MNRPF.

However, we understand that members may have some questions and hope that the following provides you with reassurance to any concerns you may have.

1. Is my pension at risk?

No your pension is not at risk. The MNRPF is well funded and as previously mentioned the day-to-day affairs of the Fund (e.g. payment of Benefits, collection and investment of contributions, triennial valuation and annual funding update, annual audit, etc.) have continued to be effectively managed by the Trustee, with the assistance of its advisers.

2. Do I need to do anything?

No there is nothing for you to do.

3. Can I transfer out?

If you are a deferred member and have not yet retired then transfers out of the Scheme are allowed. For any member considering this option we would very strongly encourage you to take independent regulated financial advice to see if this is an appropriate course of action for you.

4. Are the issues all dealt with?

As outlined in the letter from John Oldland in the Summary Annual Report good progress has been made.

Further appointments are expected to be made to the Trustee Board in the new year. We expect this to happen Q2 2021.

5. Who is paying the £1m of adviser costs? Has this come out of my pension?

No. The costs of running the Fund do not impact the level or amount of your pension.

6. How secure is the Fund?

The Fund is in a good financial position with a successful regime of getting financial contributions from the sponsoring employers. The three-yearly formal valuation process is currently underway and will value the fund as at 31 March 2020 but this process takes many months to complete. The Trustee will write to you again once this process has completed.

7. Who is responsible for the governance issues?

The Trustee Board as a whole is responsible for the governance of the Fund.