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Even in well-run schemes, it is almost inevitable that mistakes will be made. There might be documentation problems to overcome - rules which, when they come to be applied, do not appear to say what everyone thought they said, is a common example.
There may be problems arising from faulty benefit statements or mistakes with members' benefits. If overpayments or underpayments have been made in the past, then what, if anything, do the trustees have to do about that now?
Where schemes are in deficit - on the current statutory (called 'MFR') basis or because there are not enough assets to cover all the scheme's benefits on wind-up, then trustees can feel particularly uncomfortable. Do they have to negotiate with the company for more money? Does the company have an obligation to pay any more money into the scheme? What are the trustees' obligations to the members in these circumstances?
Where disputes of a more formal nature arise, trustees may need to act quickly. They may need guidance on complaints using the scheme's internal dispute resolution procedure, and time limits will probably apply. In our experience, trustees do not always use the internal disputes procedures effectively, preferring to defend their position instinctively. Rather, they should consider taking the opportunity to review their previous decisions and procedures, and even the evidence on which their original decisions were based. Being open minded at the early stages of a complaint can catch problem cases that are otherwise likely to proceed to OPAS, OPRA or to the Pensions Ombudsman.