Councils and local authorities can have complicated employment issues, certainly so far as senior officers are concerned, which require sensitivity and with expert knowledge of the statutory and constitution issues that are involved. We have considerable experience in advising councils and local authorities in such situations, and working with them to manage the risks appropriately.
We also provide advice on matters such as restructuring and the steps that councils need to go through to ensure that they are observing the appropriate legal processes, from a governance and employment perspective. We have extensive experience in advising on grievances and other issues in local authorities, and carrying out sensitive investigations into complex and often highly political matters involved.
As the doors close forever on many defined-benefit pension schemes, the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) is a significant competitive advantage for local government employers in attracting and retaining staff. However, there are traps for the unwary that need to be watched.
With many local authorities contracting services, the requirement to ensure that transferred staff can still access the LGPS (or a broadly comparable scheme) is more relevant than ever. Receiving employers are increasingly reluctant to take on the risks of variable contribution rates, strain costs and exit payments, and often seek to pass these risks back to the local authority. These liabilities can be significant and being clear up front about what risks a contractor is expected to take on is critical, but, even then, detailed negotiation is often required. We have considerable experience in advising on and negotiating detailed pension arrangements in outsourcing situations and helping local authorities to understand the arrangements they are entering into, both under the contract and any admission agreement, so that they manage risks appropriately. Our experience in advising receiving employers, as well as LGPS employers, means that we are able to provide valuable insight into the approach taken.
Experts in TUPE and pensions
With local government under significant cost pressures, local authorities are understandably keen to minimise the substantial pension-strain costs that can arise, both in redundancy and restructuring situations, but also when staff take early release of pension benefits on grounds of ill health. Often these costs are unavoidable, but we have advised a number of LGPS employers on how best to manage change programmes to minimise pension-strain costs on redundancy and business efficiency. We have also helped employers ensure that decisions on ill-health benefits are appropriately managed to avoid unnecessary costs.
We help LGPS employers manage their cost pressures by ensuring that they have robust policies in place, dealing with the exercise of discretions under the LGPS regulations. All LGPS employers are required to outline how certain discretions will be exercised and we can assist with formulating and reviewing policies, as well as advising on the exercise of discretions.
Where employees are unhappy about decisions taken on their pension benefits we also help LGPS employers and pension funds to manage appeals, under the internal dispute-resolution procedure. Our considerable experience in this area means that we are able to advise quickly and cost efficiently, allowing time to be focused elsewhere and minimising the risk of applications to the Pensions Ombudsman.
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