Disputes, appeals and complaints
Internal dispute resolution procedures (IDR)
What does IDR cover?
Who can appeal under IDR?
What can the complaint be about?
Are there any complaints which are excluded from IDR?
How does IDR operate?
Do deadlines apply to IDR?
What if the complaint involves the employer?
The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS)
Referrals to the Pensions Ombudsman
Disputes, appeals and complaints
9.1.1 Sections 50, 50A and 50B of the Pensions Act 1995 (as inserted by the Pensions Act 2004) and the Occupational Pension Schemes (Internal Dispute Resolution Procedures Consequential and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2008 set out the framework within which occupational schemes must investigate pension complaints.
9.1.2 The IDR procedures cover any disagreement under the Civil Service Pension arrangements including;
- PCSPS sections I, II, and III – that is classic , classic plus, premium and nuvos;
- The '2015 scheme' alpha
- Civil Service Compensation Scheme;
- Civil Service Injury Benefit Scheme;
- Civil Service Additional Voluntary Contribution Scheme; and
- in limited circumstances, the partnership pension account.
The person complaining must be someone who claims to ‘have an interest in the scheme’. For example, that could be someone who is:
- an active, deferred or pensioner member;
- a widow, widower, civil or nominated partner;
- a dependant of a member who has died or someone claiming to be a death benefit beneficiary.
9.1.3 The person complaining may ask a representative to handle their complaint if they wish. The member must nominate their representative in writing.
9.1.4 The person complaining can ask The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS – see 9.1.15) for help in dealing with their complaint.
9.1.5 The Pension Act 1995 and the IDR regulations do not define what a complaint can be about. The 1995 Act says that IDR procedures should resolve disagreements about matters relating to the scheme. Examples might be, problems with transferring benefits, disputes about injury benefit claims, or the way retirement benefits have been calculated. There is no exhaustive list.
9.1.6 A person cannot appeal under IDR if:
- proceedings have begun in a court or tribunal about the same disagreement;
- the Pensions Ombudsman has agreed to investigate the complaint; or
- the complaint concerns an employment question – for example, a dispute about the date a member became permanent and pensionable, or a decision to retire someone early.
9.1.7 IDR has two stages in the Civil Service Pension arrangements.
9.1.8 Under the first stage the person complaining has the right to receive a written explanation of a decision from MyCSP (as scheme administrator) or the pension paying authority.
9.1.9 MyCSP must nominate an officer to handle first-stage complaints. The nominated officer must be someone with enough knowledge and authority to co- ordinate and finalise MyCSP’s first-stage decision.
9.1.10 If the person complaining does not agree with the first stage decision, they can appeal to The Pension Schemes Executive for a second stage decision. They must appeal within 6 months of the date of the first stage decision. They must send their complaint to the nominated officer who will send the appeal to The Pension Schemes Executive, together with the relevant papers.
MyCSP must tell Cabinet Office, The Pension Schemes Executive:
- the nominated officer’s name;
- their contact address;
- their phone and fax numbers; and
- their e-mail address.
Relevant papers include all of the member’s departmental pension and personal files. It is in the member’s best interest that The Pension Schemes Executive is able to examine these files when investigating a complaint. They can often contain evidence that is crucial to the outcome of an appeal. Without these files The Pension Schemes Executive cannot be sure that they are giving the member (or person complaining) a full and fair decision. MyCSP may also ask for these files when making first stage decisions, or on The Pension Schemes Executive’s behalf for second stage appeals. You must assist MyCSP as far as possible with this at both stages of the process.
9.1.11 The Pension Schemes Executive’s second stage decisions are binding on MyCSP and employers under the terms of your Participation Agreement. If The Pension Schemes Executive decides that the person complaining should receive financial compensation, they will normally give MyCSP or the employer a chance to comment before issuing a final decision. However, The Pension Schemes Executive’s decisions are not binding on the person complaining. (See ‘Referrals to the Pensions Ombudsman’, paragraph 9.1.16).
9.1.12 The Pensions Regulator has issued guidance, stating that four months is a ‘reasonable period’ for completing each stage of the IDR process. If it looks like MyCSP or The Pension Schemes Executive cannot meet this target, they will write to the person complaining, letting them know the reason why and setting a new target date to complete the investigation.
9.1.13 As long as the complaint concerns pensions, even if it involves you the employer, you must refer it to MyCSP’s nominated officer who will give the first stage decision. They may ask for your comments on the case if you have not already given them.
9.1.14 TPAS is a voluntary organisation whose aim is to find a resolution to a dispute that is acceptable to everybody.
9.1.15 If TPAS become involved at the first stage (or before) then MyCSP should respond to them. MyCSP should send TPAS enquiries to The Pension Schemes Executive if the complaint has been through both stages of IDR.
9.1.16 A person complaining can appeal to the Pensions Ombudsman once they have received a second-stage decision from The Pension Schemes Executive. The Pensions Ombudsman investigates and determines disputes of fact and law and complaints alleging injustice as a result of maladministration. His determinations are enforceable as if they were Court judgements. Therefore they are binding on the scheme in a way that decisions by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration are not. The Pension Schemes Executive can challenge the Pension Ombudsman in the High Court, but only on a point of law.
9.1.17 Cabinet Office, The Pension Schemes Executive responds to all Pension Ombudsman investigations. He will normally write directly to The Pension Schemes Executive. But if for some reason he sends the complaint to MyCSP or employer, they should send the papers to Cabinet Office, The Pension Schemes Executive, telling the Pensions Ombudsman that they have done so. The Pension Schemes Executive will, where possible, keep MyCSP informed of how they plan to respond and of further developments, although the Pensions Ombudsman deadlines are very tight.
9.1.18 All scheme booklets contain brief references to IDR. The Pension Schemes Executive also produce a leaflet ‘If you have a complaint about your pension’ which covers IDR. MyCSP hold copies. Alternatively, members can find this and more information about IDR on the Civil Service Pensions website.