IRELAND - The Irish Association of Pension Funds (IAPF) has published a working paper outlining best practice for maintaining contact with deferred members.

The paper, produced by the IAPF Benefits Committee, highlighted the reasons why contacting members can become difficult and identified a series of actions trustees and administrators can take to try and minimise the problem.

Possible solutions, which are an amalgamation of actions that schemes dealing with this issue have already found successful, include storing members' personal public service (PPS) numbers in order to trace them in the future, and also obtaining a personal email address, which is more likely to remain constant.

Although it admits not all the suggestions will be "relevant or successful for each scheme", the IAPF said the actions should be done by schemes "as a matter of best practice".

Other possible solutions put forward include storing mobile phone numbers; advertising scheme wind-ups in appropriate newspapers such as regional papers; and using current or former employees to help trace missing individuals.

The IAPF confirmed there are a "number of policy issues that we will be taking forward with the Pensions Board and Department of Social & Family Affairs", but it pointed out further suggestions could still be incorporated as the document is a working paper.

It said maintaining contact with deferred members has become more of an issue following the introduction of vesting rights in the Pensions Act 1990, and subsequent improvements in 2001, which allows members to receive a deferred pension after just two years service.

But the IAPF said the increasingly transient workforce Ireland is experiencing makes it difficult for administrators to keep in contact with individuals, particularly if they were employed for only a short time.

For example, an employee who joins a pension scheme at 18 but leaves the company at 20 is entitled to a deferred pension even if it does not become payable until they reach 65.

The position is compounded in circumstances where the company may have been taken-over, merged or closed within the intervening years which would make it difficult for a member to trace their benefits, while trustees are unlikely to hold up-to-date contacts for such individuals.
A lack of member contact can also be a problem in a wind-up situation, said the IAPF, where all the benefits have to be discharged before the process can be completed.

At the same time, the increasing number of non-Irish nationals who work in Ireland but later return to their home countries at retirement, can also cause problems for the scheme not just in tracing members, but also in arranging payments.

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