Imminent bilateral regulation between the UK and Ireland on the issue of cross-border occupational pension scheme membership looks set to rectify a 10 year anomaly that has left thousands of employees un-sure of their pensions rights in the two countries.
The conundrum results from historical agreements between Britain and Ireland when tax conditions were identical in both states and workers could belong to schemes both in Ireland and the UK - a system which has been allowed to continue in the last decade despite the inherent differences in the two economies today.
Now the UK Department of Social Security and its Irish counterparts the Department for Social Community and Family Affairs are working on regulations which will clear up issues of taxation and questions of dual pension legislation such as the UK pensions act, which have been inhibiting clarity in the retirement provision for cross-border workers - a common oc-curence between the frontiers of the Republic and Northern Ireland, and to a lesser extent the UK mainland.
Bill Birmingham head of research at the UK National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF), explains: Technically, all schemes that possessed cross-border membership approval were covered by legislation in the UK, so if for example an employee at a company in County Cork in Ireland was in disagreement with a cross-border pension scheme they belonged to, they could call upon the UK pensions ombudsman to rule on a matter which would normally be the domain of Irish law. "Clearly this posed a hornet's nest of problems. Similarly, such a cross-border scheme would be expected to pay the normal levy to the British authorities in respect to members who are actually from Ireland.
"Unfortunately, when the pensions act was drawn up, I don't think many people at the DSS were aware of the existence of such schemes and no provisional exclusion of Irish members was made from legislation - and significantly many employees currently find themselves falling between two stools in terms of which country's laws their pensions are judged by." Des Crowther, director of the Irish Association of Pension Funds, adds: "The legislation is going to be passed in late spring and is certainly long overdue, because people in this sort of scheme have been at sixes and sevens for years now." Hugh Wheelan"