Revised advice to members of the Boots Pension Scheme
Boots refusal to allow members to 'reserve their rights' as part of the application process into the new pension scheme gives rise to new advice from the PDA which may require members to take urgent action.
The most recent advice that we gave to affected members regarding possible challenges to the closure of the Boots pension Scheme and the subsequent loss of accrued benefits was that you should complete the application but reserve your rights to challenge clause 8 on the actual application form. We offered this advice because we considered it to be reasonable for Boots to respect genuine concerns of some employees about the procedure and because we wanted to test their flexibility and willingness to deal with these genuine concerns.
However, Boots have informed the PDA today that they will not accept any adulteration of the form and that they will deem the adulterated application to be invalid thus making members ineligible for entry into the new scheme from 1st July and that as a consequence their death in service benefit may be affected. We are disappointed but not surprised at their stance and we have always indicated to our members that this was always a possibility, but it was the best way of trying to protect their position if a subsequent challenge was to be made. We will continue to press the issue on behalf of members and we await the response of the pensions ombudsman but nevertheless we do not want our members to be disadvantaged in any way and we therefore advise that members take a new course of action.
In light of the reaction from Boots, we now recommend that members join the new scheme before the 25th June deadline so as to secure acceptance to the new scheme, they may do this by completing the requisite forms without any amendments to any of its clauses. Following confirmation of acceptance on to the scheme, members may then wish to write to their line/personnel manger expressing their concern that they felt they had no option but to sign the form, including clause 8, or be without the ‘death in service' benefit. We will issue guidance on the specific wording to assist. Our immediate concern is that you should not exclude yourself from eligibility for pension benefits and death in service cover by missing the deadline imposed by Boots.
The PDA have been given assurances by Boots that anyone who has applied with an adulterated form 'reserving their rights' against clause 8 (or with an accompanying letter reserving their rights) will be contacted by Boots and given the opportunity to reapply before the deadline. Notwithstanding that assurance, we recommend that if you have applied using the adulterated form, then you should make contact with them immediately to get another form and reapply.
The PDA has also now been given assurances by Boots that it will respond in full to the letter sent to Mr Pessina and quotes postal receipt reasons for not doing so earlier.