Debi O’Donovan, editor of Employee Benefits: Plenty to think about as 2012 approaches

It has been so long coming that it might be easy to forget just how momentous the removal of the default retirement age will be for the future workplace.

As of this month, no employee can be made to retire just because they have turned 65.

Already, some employers have had to readjust their benefits packages to avoid falling foul of discrimination laws, while those with younger staff will face this task over the coming years.

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Pensions, both in terms of accumulating and decumulating, are a key area of focus in this new world order of staff working longer. Pensions legislation allows for plenty of flexibility for both employer and employee, but there are a few pitfalls that must be avoided. That is, if you do nothing, then you will be caught out. We flag up the key points to watch out for in our article on flexible retirement arrangements.

October also marks the introduction of the Agency Workers Directive, which gives temporary agency staff entitlement to the same basic employment and working conditions, after 12 weeks in the job, as permanent staff. Again, HR and benefits managers need to be up to speed with this to ensure compliance.

However, the changes that are at the forefront of most of our readers’ minds, if my recent conversations with benefits directors are anything to go by, are those brought about by the Pensions Act 2008, which will be added to by the Pensions Bill 2011 when it is eventually passed. We have been referring to these collectively as the 2012
pension reforms because the very first employers that will have to comply with rules such as the auto-enrolment of staff into pensions schemes will have to do so by October 2012.

To help flag up key issues to watch out for, and to share best practice, Employee Benefits will now run monthly articles specifically about the 2012 pension reforms. Last December we published the first of our annual reports on how to prepare for the 2012 pension reforms. The next one will be available with our November 2011 issue.

To give you a foretaste: the area currently keeping most HR and benefits managers awake is the administration of auto-enrolment.

Debi O’Donovan, editor

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