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.
Disputes, appeals and complaints
Internal dispute resolution procedures (IDR)
What should I do if a member has a complaint about their pension?
9.1.2 A member may approach you if they are unhappy about something to do with their pension. If it is not a straightforward query that you can correct or explain, then the member should be asked to make their complaint to MyCSP. This should be done in writing and sent by email or post for the attention of the complaints manager to the details below:
PO Box 2017,
Guidance for members on making complaints can be found in the member section of the website. Please click here to find out more.
How do MyCSP deal with complaints?
9.1.3 If a member speaks to MyCSP and raises a concern, but doesn’t yet wish to make a formal complaint, then MyCSP will aim to resolve it before it becomes a complaint. This may involve explaining to the member the reason for delays, or outlining the different actions being taken by MyCSP and employers.
If a member makes it clear they are making a complaint, or they are not happy with any initial explanation from MyCSP, then MyCSP will start the complaints procedure. If you refer a complaint from a member to MyCSP, then they will also start the complaints procedure. This may involve contacting you to query data they hold or to get further information. MyCSP will then issue a response to the member to explain how their concerns have been resolved.
If the member does not feel their concerns have been resolved by MyCSP’s complaint response, then they may wish to contact The Pensions Ombudsman Early Resolution Team.
A member has the right to refer their complaint free of charge at any stage. The Pensions Ombudsman Early Resolution Team can help a member raise their concerns and help deal with complaints and disputes which concern the administration and/or management of occupational and personal pension schemes.
Contact with The Pensions Ombudsman Early Resolution Team about a complaint needs to be made within three years of when the event(s) the member is complaining about happened – or, if later, within three years of when the member became aware of the event There is discretion for those time limits to be extended.
If a member’s dispute remains unresolved, they may wish to use the Internal Dispute Resolution (IDR) process.
What is the internal dispute resolution (IDR) process?
9.1.4 This is the scheme’s procedure for resolving member disputes. Civil Service Pensions has a two-stage process to ensure that any concerns can be investigated thoroughly and a resolution is achieved that all parties are happy with.
The Pensions Regulator (tPR) has guidance on IDR procedures in its code of practice, which can be accessed here.
What happens in the IDR process?
9.1.5 The IDR process is designed to allow a full investigation to take place, and to give those who are complaining, and those who are being complained about, a chance to give their views. To do this, its very likely that you will be asked to provide additional information and evidence from the members record to support the data you have provided.
At the first stage MyCSP will complete the investigation and provide a written response.
If the person complaining does not agree with the first stage decision, they can appeal to the Cabinet Office and ask them to investigate and issue a second stage decision. They must appeal within six months of the date of the first stage decision.
A flow chart explaining the process can be accessed at Annex A.Annexes
What does IDR cover?
9.1.6 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;
- In limited circumstances, the partnership pension account.
Who can appeal under IDR?
9.1.7 The person complaining must be someone who has an interest, or believes they have an interest, in the scheme. For example, that could be someone who is:
- an active, deferred or pensioner member
- a pension credit member following a pension sharing order
- a widow, widower, civil or nominated partner
- a dependant of a member who has died or someone claiming to be a death benefit beneficiary
The person complaining may ask a representative to handle their complaint on their behalf. The member must nominate their representative in writing.
The person complaining can ask The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) to be their representative or for help in dealing with their complaint.
What can the complaint be about?
9.1.8 There are no set definitions that limit what an IDR can be about, and there is no exhaustive list. Broadly speaking if it is a pension related matter then it can be investigated under the IDR procedures.
There are some circumstances when MyCSP and Cabinet Office cannot consider a complaint under the IDR process. These include when:
- proceedings have begun in a court or tribunal about the same disagreement
- the Pensions Ombudsman has agreed to investigate the complaint;
- the complaint is about an employment matter – for example, a decision to retire someone early, or the circumstances surrounding a dismissal
- the complaint is about a decision made by the Scheme Medical Advisor (SMA) – for example a decision not to grant Ill Health Retirement. Please read the guidance on complaint about the SMA, as only complaint about the process and not the decision can be considered.
If you are unsure if a complaint falls into one of the above categories, then you should contact MyCSP for advice on this before responding to the member. However, if the complaint is not in one of these categories, then MyCSP and Cabinet Office should be able to investigate.
What is an employer’s role in the IDR process?
9.1.9 Your role in the IDR process is crucial to ensure the investigation is fair and reaches the right outcome. You will have access to the information and evidence MyCSP need to ensure MyCSP understand exactly what has happened. In every IDR you will also be given the opportunity to tell MyCSP your views of the situation, which will be considered before reaching an outcome.
Some examples of the information you may be asked for by MyCSP or Cabinet Office are:
- copies of correspondence between you and the member;
- evidence to support the data that’s been provided on the member’s service history;
- documentation from a members HR file or their records;
- a timeline of your involvement in events such as a retirement, partial retirement or an ill health retirement application;
Each employer must have a nominated complaints contact who will be contacted by MyCSP or Cabinet Office in the event of an IDR complaint. So you will need to ensure MyCSP has up to date information on your current nominated complaints contact including:
- their name
- their contact address
- their contact details including email and phone number
When an IDR complaint is received, the nominated complaints contact will be sent a complaint request form. This will give details of the complaint and copies of any relevant evidence or information that may be helpful for understanding why the complaint has arisen. The nominated complaints contact will then need to complete the form and return this to MyCSP or Cabinet Office.
The completed form will need to include the following.
- our response to the member’s complaint
- all documents or information requested
- our explanations for any documents or information that cannot be supplied
- any additional evidence you want to be considered.
When MyCSP or Cabinet Office request information they will try and make this as specific as possible and explain why they need this to reach an outcome.
This is to ensure you are able to locate exactly what they need and provide any additional evidence you think would contribute to the outcome. If the information is available from different teams within a department, then the nominated complaints contact will need to coordinate getting this information and providing it to MyCSP or Cabinet Office.
The required information can be contained in the member’s personal or pension file, so its important that thorough searches take place as the information is often crucial to the outcome of a complaint.
If you are unable to provide the information that has been requested, it’s important to contact your case handler at MyCSP or Cabinet Office to discuss this as soon as possible. They may be able to help you determine if other evidence may be suitable to provide.
If there is no alternative suitable evidence, then this may affect the outcome of the complaint depending on the information that is missing and what other information is available, including evidence supplied by the member. You will be asked to confirm in writing that the information is unavailable and the steps you have taken to locate this information. EPN384 may apply if the member’s records are missing.
A flow chart explaining the employer’s and MyCSP’s role in the complaints process is contained in Annex B.
An example of the complaint request form can be found at Annex C.Annexes
Are the decisions binding on employers?
9.1.10 At complaint stage, MyCSP will try to resolve the member’s concerns. So you may be asked to provide further information, or consider taking actions. These directions are not binding on employers, however is it very likely that if they aren’t completed, the member will make an IDR Stage 1 application.
If the member chooses to take the complaint to Stage 1 of the IDR process, then the decision that MyCSP reaches will be binding on the employer.
If the member chooses to take the complaint to Stage 2 of the IDR process, then the decisions Cabinet Office reaches will be binding on the employer and MyCSP.
What action does an employer need to take after an IDR decision?
9.1.11 Regardless of whether the complaint is upheld, upheld in part or not upheld, there may be directions that you will need to carry out. You will be told about this in the cover letter when you are sent a copy of the member’s decision letter. The directions will also be in the letter sent to the member, so they know what the next steps are.
You will need to complete the directions as quickly as possible, otherwise the member may want to escalate their complaint to Stage 2 or to the Pensions Ombudsman. You will be provided with a timeframe for completing these directions and you must notify MyCSP when these actions have been completed.
You will also be given feedback in the cover letter. If that feedback contains actions to take or points that need to be considered in order to prevent future complaints, then this will also be copied to your Service Delivery Manager.
A template of the feedback form can be viewed at Annex D.Annexes
Are there any deadlines for employers?
9.1.12 During the IDR investigation, when the nominated complaints contact is contacted you will have ten working days to respond and provide a completed complaint request form along with any additional evidence requested.
If you do not think you will be able to meet this deadline, then you should contact the case handler at MyCSP or Cabinet Office as soon as possible.
If MyCSP or Cabinet Office do not get a response from employers, including to any follow up communication, then this may be escalated to the Service Delivery Manager. If deadlines are missed regularly, then this may be escalated to the Service Delivery Manager and Cabinet Office, so any issues that are affecting responding to complaints can be resolved.
How long does a complaint or IDR take?
9.1.13 The length of time taken to investigate a complaint or IDR can depend on a number of things, including the subject being complained about or if further investigation or information is required. TPR has said that four months is a reasonable period for completing each stage of the IDR process. However, both MyCSP and Cabinet Office aim to complete the investigation in a much shorter time wherever possible. It is therefore important you respond to MyCSP or Cabinet Office as soon as possible to avoid any delay.
The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS)
9.1.14 If members have general requests for information or guidance concerning their pension arrangements they can contact The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) as below:
The Pensions Advisory Service
11 Belgrave Road,
Tel: 0800 011 3797
The Pensions Ombudsman (TPO)
9.1.15 If the member is not happy with the response they received at the second stage of the IDR process, they can appeal to the Pensions Ombudsman.
The Pensions Ombudsman is an independent organisation that investigates and determines complaints of maladministration. His determinations are binding on all parties and are enforceable as if they were Court judgements. The Cabinet Office can only challenge the Pension Ombudsman’s decisions in the High Court, but only on a point of law.
As Cabinet Office will have made the final decision at the second stage of IDR process, they will take responsibility for responding to all Pension Ombudsman investigations. The Pensions Ombudsman will normally notify Cabinet Office that they have accepted a complaint from a member, however if you receive a complaint you should also notify Cabinet Office and send copies of all the papers as soon as possible.
Cabinet Office may ask you to provide information or decide whether you wish to carry out certain actions to resolve a complaint. You or MyCSP may also be named as a party to the appeal, depending on who the member feels needs to put matters right for them.
If you receive a complaint from the Pensions Ombudsman, please read the guidance in Annex E.Annexes
Referrals to the Pensions Ombudsman
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 There is information in the member’s section of the website which is available here.