At a glance: reward and benefits headlines this week 31 July – 6 August 2020

Your quick-read round up of the reward and benefits stories appearing in the press in the past seven days.

The headlines you might have missed between 31 July – 6 August 2020.

At a glance: reward and benefits headlines this week 31 July – 6 August 2020

HMRC figures show plunging pension freedom withdrawals
Professional Pensions: A total of 340,000 people withdrew £2.3bn in flexible payments from their pensions in the second quarter of 2020, according to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). Read story

WPC asks industry for ideas to solve small pots problem
Professional Pensions: The Work and Pensions Committee (WPC) has asked the industry for “workable solutions” to address the problem of problem of proliferating small pension pots. Read story

USS member satisfaction at ‘record low’ as contributions rise
Pensions Expert: Members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme are growing increasingly dissatisfied with their relationship with the scheme, its latest annual report and accounts show. Read story

Plan to better support NHS staff wellbeing and flexible working lacks detail, experts warn
People Management: Latest healthcare people strategy pledges recruitment drive and end to ‘deep-rooted’ inequalities, but commentators query how it will be implemented. Read story

Charities urge employers not to return shielding staff to work
People Management: Experts say forcing vulnerable employees back to the office would be ‘heartless and reckless’ as government protections come to an end. Read story

Johannesburg Stock Exchange introduces equal paid parental leave
Employee Benefits: Africa’s largest stock exchange, Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) is giving all working parents four months paid leave entitlement. Read story

Greggs will not pay staff if they need to self-isolate after returning from holiday
Employee Benefits: British bakery chain Greggs will not be paying any of its 25,000 employees if they have to self-isolate when returning from holiday. Read story

Group risk industry pays £57m to bereaved families due to Covid-19 – GriD
Cover: Nearly 500 lump sum death benefits paid by employer-sponsored group life insurance policies. Read story

Pension tax reclaims processing slows amid Covid-19; per person claim values hit record high
Pensions Age: The number of pension tax reclaim forms processed in Q2 2020 fell by almost 10,000 compared to Q2 2019, with just 7,649 forms processed during the period, according to HMRC data. Read story

Welsh govt outlines proposed firefighter scheme amendments
Pensions Age: The Welsh government has further outlined proposals that would amend Firefighter Pension Schemes’ regulations to equalise survivor benefits in the midst of a consultation on the issue. Read story

How to implement workplace initiatives which excite and drive employee engagement during lockdown and beyond
HR News: The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the workplace on its head, with business owners, leaders and employees having to almost instantly revise and adjust their daily operations to fit in with the ‘new normal’ of working from home. Read story

Extending flexible furlough is ‘just delaying the unfortunate inevitable’: Nick Ferrari
HR Review: Nick Ferrari, breakfast show host on Leading Britain’s Conversation (LBC) radio said on his show that extending the flexible furlough scheme is just “delaying the unfortunate inevitable”. Read story

More than half of furloughed employees are now working again
HR Review: This is according to think tank, Resolution Foundation which found that of the 9.5 million workers furloughed, as of the beginning of August has reduced to 4.5 or 3 million. Read story

Employers warned on pension contributions as furlough support ends
Corporate Adviser: Companies are warned that they could face fines if they reduce pension contributions, following the removal of government support for these payments. Read story

PASA publishes Covid-19 post-lockdown guidance for administrators
Professional Pensions: The Pensions Administration Standards Association (PASA) has published follow-up guidance for administrators as they navigate their way out of the Covid-19 lockdown. Read story

PLSA publishes SIP reporting guidance ‘just in time’
Pensions Expert: An implementation statements reporting guide from the PLSA aims to "cut through some of the confusion” and help trustees ready themselves for the October deadline. Read story

Baby boomers suffer largest coronavirus earnings drop, study finds
People Management: But the crisis has delivered ‘a particularly severe financial blow to younger earners’ who typically have lower incomes, job security and savings, FCA research adds. Read story

Countrywide Farmers completes £100 million bulk annuity transaction
Employee Benefits: Countrywide Farmers has agreed to a £100 million bulk annuity transitions for its retirement benefits scheme for 360 deferred members and 712 retirees. Read story

Government publishes further details of the job retention bonus
Employee Benefits: The government has published further details of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) bonus, providing more clarity on eligibility requirements. Read story

British Airways introduces 20% pay cuts for 4,300 pilots
Employee Benefits: UK airline British Airways has introduced a temporary 20% pay cut for 4,300 pilots. Read story

Boss sacks staff refusing to go back to work after furlough
HR Grapevine: Businesses will likely be concerned about how they can sustain and survive this turbulent time while employees will undoubtedly be worried about job security and pay going forwards. Read story

Firms not doing enough to support flexible working
Workplace Insight: A new study from academics at the University of Kent and the University of Birmingham claims that organisations still have work to do when it comes to understanding people’s experiences of flexible working. Read story

Govt pledges ethnicity pay gap response by end of year
Money Marketing: The government is pledging further communications on ethnicity pay gap reporting by the end of the year as a petition to make the practice mandatory passes 100,000 signatures. Read story

Best and worst performing FTSE 350 schemes’ funding levels diverge further - Aon
Pensions Age: The best and worst performing pension schemes of FTSE 350 companies have seen “further divergence” in their funding levels in 2020 due to Covid-19 volatility, according to Aon. Read story

No ‘dash for pension cash’ during lockdown
HR News: Laura Stewart-Smith, Workplace Savings Manager at Aviva comments: “Contrary to the fears of some, this data shows there has been no “dash for cash” from pensions during lockdown. Read story

Seven out of 10 employees want better financial education in the workplace
Corporate Adviser: Three out of four employees don’t have any access to financial education in the workplace, according to new research. Read story

Majority of adults lack confidence to make retirement decisions: ONS
Corporate Adviser: Only a minority of working adults (44 per cent) feel they understand enough about pensions to make decisions about their retirement, according to new data from the Office of National Statistics. Read story

GMP Equalisation Working Group releases member comms guidance
Professional Pensions: The reconciliation and rectification sub-committee of the Guaranteed Minimum Pension Equalisation Working Group (GMPEWG) has published guidance on communicating with members. Read story

NHS scheme pays deadline further extended to March 2021
Professional Pensions: NHS Pension Scheme members in England and Wales have been given a further six months to take advantage of the voluntary scheme pays process for the 2018/19 deadline. Read story

Weston Town Council to pay employees the real living wage
Employee Benefits: Weston Town Council is to pay all of its employees the minimum real living wage, in line with the Living Wage Foundation guidelines. Read story

City Sprint couriers win worker status and holiday pay benefits
Employee Benefits: Courier service City Sprint is changing the status of 17 workers’ contracts, meaning that the business could have to pay out £198,463.37 for unpaid holiday claims following an employment tribunal case. Read story

Australian government introduces $1,500 sick pay for Victorian staff
Employee Benefits: Employees working in the state of Victoria, Australia will receive a $1,500 (£821) payment if they have to self-isolate for 14 days due to the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. Read story

One in three SMEs forced to close due to Covid-19
Cover: Nearly a quarter of retailers and hospitality firms do not know when they will reopen doors. Read story

Employee ownership – the solution to higher standards of ESG
Employer News: Graeme Nuttall OBE, a partner at European law firm Fieldfisher, has today called for employee ownership to reach new heights and fulfil environmental, social and governance (ESG) obligations. Read story

Over 1 in 5 Brits have no pension provision - OpenMoney
Pensions Age: More than one in five (21 per cent) British adults do not have any pension provision in place, according to research by OpenMoney. Read story

Period given to employers to admit to ‘furlough fraud’ tripled by HMRC
HR Review: HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have announced that companies who have committed ‘furlough fraud’ now have 90 instead of 30 days to confess what they have done, as there is a belief that businesses that have taken advantage of the scheme have done so accidentally. Read story

Extra employer rooted in botanical scheme following TPR intervention
Professional Pensions: A second employer has been appointed to stabilise the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) pension scheme after intervention from The Pensions Regulator (TPR) when trustees failed to agree a valuation in 2015. Read story

Coronavirus exec pay cuts ‘superficial or short term’, says CIPD
People Management: Just 36 FTSE 100 firms reduced CEO reward packages during the crisis, with experts warning of a continuing ‘disconnect’ between performance and remuneration. Read story

French care workers to receive €1,000 Covid-19 bonus
Employee Benefits: The French government is to pay care workers a €1,000 (£901) bonus to recognise their efforts during the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. Read story

Outsourced cleaners at Ford to receive 3% pay rise
Employee Benefits: 150 contracted workers at Ford Dagenham and Ford Dunton Technical Centre are set to receive a 3% pay rise. Read story

Government extends pensions tax allowance deadline for NHS staff to March 2021
Employee Benefits: The government is giving NHS employees an extension on their pension scheme allowance liabilities for tax bills relating to 2018/19. Read story

Creating great cultures will be one of the main drivers for firms in the new era of work
Workplace Insight: The issue of workplace culture, and why it might succeed or fail, has become a matter of a great deal of study as the basis for work has moved on from the scientific management theories of the early to mid-20th Century. Read story

Hardest times 'may still be ahead’ for many sponsoring employers – TPR
Pensions Age: The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has warned that the hardest times “may still be ahead” for many sponsoring employers in a letter to the Work and Pensions Select Committee (WPC). Read story

Two thirds of fathers are still not taking paternity leave
HR News: Two thirds of men are still not taking paternity leave*, with only 208,000 fathers claiming paternity pay last year (year ending 31 March 2020), compared to 649,000 women who received maternity pay, says EMW, the commercial law firm. Read story

78% of adults say Covid-19 has highlighted importance of having savings
HR News: In a survey[1] conducted amongst 3,000 adults in the UK, 77.5% said that the recent pandemic has made them realise the importance of having savings to fall back on. Read story

No change in plans for Covid-19, say three-in-four DB schemes
Professional Pensions: The majority of defined benefit (DB) schemes have taken no material action to change their investment strategy or journey plan during the coronavirus pandemic, say Lane Clark & Peacock (LCP). Read story

Targeted communication from providers key to AE awareness
Professional Pensions: Pension providers need to look for more innovative ways to improve engagement with their employees, according to Aegon. Read story

Uber and Metro Bank extend remote working policies to 2021
Employee Benefits: Ridesharing business Uber and retail banking organisation Metro Bank are extending their home working policies to 2021. Read story

University College Hospital NHS Trust reports mean gender pay gap of 16%
Employee Benefits: University College London Hospital NHS Trust has reported a mean gender pay gap of 16% for average hourly pay as at April 2019. Read story

Homerton Hospital workers to receive London living wage and full sick pay
Employee Benefits: 200 outsourced cleaners, porters and security staff at Homerton University Hospital Trust will be paid the London living wage, as well as receiving full NHS sick pay. Read story

£57m paid to bereaved families from employer-sponsored group life insurance policies because of COVID-19
Employer News: GRiD today announces that the dependants of employees with group life benefits have been paid benefits valued at a total of £56,709,154 as a result of COVID-19 between 1 January and 30 June 2020. Read story

ITV submits Box Clever pension scheme settlement offer to TPR
Pensions Age: ITV has submitted an initial offer of £31m to The Pensions Regulator (TPR) to reach a settlement regarding its financial support of the Box Clever Group Pension Scheme. Read story

Nearly 1 in 5 workers unaware of auto-enrolment
Pensions Age: Nearly one in five (19 per cent) UK workers are unaware of automatic enrolment (AE) into workplace pension schemes, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures have revealed. Read story

UK DB pension deficit remains steady at £270bn - PwC
Pensions Age: The UK defined benefit (DB) pension deficit was £270bn at the end of July, the same level as was recorded at the end of June, according to PwC’s Skyval Index. Read story

What do employers need to know about flexible working requests: top employment lawyer explains
HR News: Ben Mason, an Employment Law Partner at law firm Aaron & Partners, has advised employers of a likely increase in flexible working requests as employees return to the workplace following the UK’s lockdown period. Read story

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