UK - Suggestions by the IMF that the Bank of England (BoE) should engage in more quantitative easing (QE) have been refuted by the UK pensions industry, with the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) warning it would push defined benefit plans "further into the red".

As part of its annual mission examining the state of the UK economy, the IMF said a further round of quantitative easing could "support demand by lowering long-term interest rates".

Although the country's central bank has so far refrained from further expanding the asset repurchase facility, it has so far been used to introduce £325bn (€391bn) into the financial markets - with bond yields declining as a result.

The NAPF previously estimated that February's £50bn stimulus increased deficits by around £90bn, coming on top of £180bn in widening deficits caused by previous tranches of the programme.

Joanne Segars, the organisation's chief executive, said the government needed to address the impact of QE on pension funds if there were to be another round.

"QE has driven pension funds further into the red and leaves those trying to buy an annuity with a worse deal, which they are then locked into for life," she said.

"We are being told it will all be worth it in the long run, but, in the short run, pension funds and pensioners are being left to deal with the pain. They need, and deserve, much more support."

A parliamentary report previously suggested that pensioners hit by QE should be compensated for their losses.

Meanwhile, the Debt Management Office (DMO) has launched a consultation about the timing of gilt cancellations for issuances linked to the Royal Mail Pension Plan's (RMPP) portfolio.

The transfer of RMPP's £28bn in assets to the Treasury, signed off by the European Commission in late March, came about as a result of plans to privatise the postal service - with the government believing the company would be more attractive to investors if freed of its £4.6bn deficit.

The DMO confirmed that it would cancel all gilts held by the scheme - of which £2.2bn were conventional and a further £5.7bn were index-linked - but said it was open to suggestions as to the timing.

"The DMO invites feedback, at its quarterly consultation meetings with gilt-edged market makers and investor representatives on 28 May 2012, on the timing for cancellation(s) during 2012-13, considering any specific timing constraints or preferences and minimum notice periods, and taking into account the effect that cancellation(s) will have on market indices," it said in a statement.

Finally, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has released a report on employment rights, with author Adrian Beecroft of Dawn Capital recommending changes to the auto-enrolment regime for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The paper, leaked to a number of national newspapers late last year, coincided with reports that the government was considering changes to a staging date timetable for macro and micro employers.

The Department for Work and Pensions confirmed a revised staging timetable for SMEs in November.

Beecroft's report, dated late October, argued for exclusion from auto-enrolment for all SMEs with five employees or less, while companies employing 5-10 members of staff should have been granted the ability to opt out if compulsion.

The venture capitalist argued that the reasons for these exemptions were "numerous".

"I feel that, in deciding that the scheme should apply to even the smallest employer, the nature of such employers has been overlooked," Beecroft said.

"In many, many cases, they are run by people who have mastered a practical skill or craft but have very few academic qualifications," he added. "Such people often find administrative work - whether paper or internet based - an enormous trial and are likely to be still more deterred by this scheme from employing someone than they already are by the intricacies of PAYE."

Other proposals outlined in the report included removing legislation that did away with the need to address a pension deficit in the case of "perfectly sound" company restructurings.

Beecroft also urged the introduction of legislation that would allow pension pot mergers.

Pensions minister Steve Webb announced a consultation on small pot mergers in late December.