The Pensions Ombudsman has introduced fixed awards for distress and inconvenience (or “non-financial injustice”) caused by maladministration in the management of pension schemes.

The guidance is effective immediately and applies to complaints which are currently before the Ombudsman as well as new complaints. Non-financial injustice can cover the time and effort spent in having to pursue a complaint and the associated “distress”, such as concern, anxiety, anger, disappointment, embarrassment or loss of expectation and could range from “mild irritation” to anxiety which requires medical treatment.

Awards will fall into one of five categories, each with a corresponding fixed award:

  • Nominal (no award)
  • Significant (£500)
  • Serious (£1000)
  • Severe (£2000)
  • Exceptional (more than £2000)

The Ombudsman’s guidance sets out examples of the sorts of factors it will consider in deciding the level of award, for example:

  • how obvious the maladministration was;
  • whether it could have easily been avoided;
  • any excessive delays in handling the complaint; and
  • the level of distress or inconvenience suffered.

The factsheet published by the Ombudsman sets out examples of how the factors might be applied practically. This document is a reproduction of this.

However, the Ombudsman emphasises that all submissions will be considered on a case-by-case basis. In any event, the awards are not designed to be punitive in nature and are intended as an acknowledgement of the inconvenience or distress they have suffered. Awards falling into the ‘exceptional’ category are therefore expected to be rare.

For more information

For advice on dealing with complaints about pensions maladministration or disputes, please contact Doug Mullen.