UK: Pension Flexibility: Regulators Release Guidance Ahead Of April Changes

The pensions industry is gearing up for yet more radical changes to its landscape from 6 April, which is when the remainder of the widely-reported pension flexibility reforms come into force.

The reforms principally apply to pension schemes offering "defined contribution" (DC) benefits. They will, according to HM Treasury, give members greater freedom and choice in the manner in which they can access their benefits.

Until now, the conventional option for taking DC pension benefits has been to buy an annuity. From 6 April, the main options that members can have for taking their DC pension benefits (and categorised as "Flexible Benefits" within the legislation) are as follows:

  • A full withdrawal of the fund benefits (in one go as cash), taking up to 25% of the pot as a tax-free lump sum and having the rest taxed at the member's applicable income tax rate;
  • A withdrawal of part of the member's fund to begin with, with 25% of that withdrawal being tax-free and the rest chargeable to income tax, and any subsequent withdrawals from the remainder of the "uncrystallised" fund being 25% tax-free as well; and
  • Flexi-access drawdown, which replaces the existing flexible drawdown regime and allows members to either:
    - take their full tax-free cash sum right away and use the remaining fund as a drawdown pension income pot; or
    - take part of their tax-free cash right away while allocating some of the remaining fund as a drawdown pension income pot and treating the rest of the fund as 'uncrystallised' until a later date.

The availability of these options within an existing arrangement will depend on whether the scheme in question offers it. Members may even be able to make use of a mix of the above options. 

In addition, since March 2014, members can withdraw the full amount from any occupational, personal or stakeholder pension fund as cash where its value isn't more than the "small lump sum" threshold of £10,000 (up from £2,000). Taking benefits in that way can be done up to three times in a member's lifetime.

On a related note, the "trivial commutation" regime also changed. It is possible for members of defined benefit (DB) schemes to withdraw, as cash, the full value of their DB pension entitlement (also categorised as their "Safeguarded Benefits") from all schemes of which they are a member (as long as that value does not exceed the new increased limit of £30,000). If a member's benefits exceed that limit and if he wants to take all of his benefits in cash, he would need to transfer his Safeguarded Benefits to a Flexible Benefit arrangement.

Two of the key challenges facing pension scheme trustees and employers are deciding how to communicate the changes to members and ensuring that the protection members will have surrounding the new choices is in place.  Members should be given the appropriate information at the right time and The Pensions Regulator and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have thrown their hats into the ring by separately releasing draft guidance on the subject.

The Pensions Regulator's draft guide to the April reforms

As the name suggests, the Regulator's Draft Essential Guide to Communicating With Members provides some tips on key statements and information to provide members about their choices under the new freedoms.  With the Occupational and Personal Pension Schemes (Disclosure of Information) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 having been passed this week, this guide will come into force. 

Along with the guidance is a set of five generic risk warning statements which trustees and advisers may find useful, covering the various options for taking benefits and the danger of pensions-related scams.

The guide and the legislation state that members must be informed of how to access the Government's new pensions support service, known as Pension Wise.  The Pension Wise website has now been launched, and can be viewed by clicking here.

Publications regarding transfers from DB schemes

The Regulator has also been consulting on transfers from DB schemes to DC arrangements, as has as the FCA. The Regulator has outlined new safeguards that will apply from 6 April. 

In a nutshell, individuals who wish to transfer their Safeguarded Benefits (if their value is more than £30,000) into a DC arrangement will be required to obtain "appropriate independent advice" from an FCA authorised adviser.  The trustees of the DB scheme in question will have to check that that advice has been given, although it will not be the trustees' responsibility to check the appropriateness of the advice or whether the member is following it.

The FCA paper will be of interest to IFAs, providers, benefit consultancies and sponsoring employers of DB schemes, many of whom will already have begun to receive queries from members who are curious about the new pension flexibilities and, perhaps, wish to determine whether they can benefit from them.  The FCA consultation is accessible here – it ends on 15 April, interestingly after the flexibility changes take effect.

With the rush to complete the guidance and the associated regulations before 6 April, the only saving grace is that 6 April is also Easter Monday and we should still be enjoying our Easter eggs!

© MacRoberts 2015


The material contained in this article is of the nature of general comment only and does not give advice on any particular matter. Recipients should not act on the basis of the information in this e-update without taking appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Clyde & Co
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Clyde & Co
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions