Watchdog fears UK employers will seek to cut pensions bill

More businesses hit by the coronavirus crisis will attempt to save costs by coaxing staff to quit their company pension scheme, the pensions ombudsman has warned.

It is illegal for companies to encourage or induce employees to opt out of a workplace retirement plan once they have been enrolled.

Once out of a scheme, employers are not required to make contributions to an employee’s pension of at least 3 per cent of their pensionable pay.

Antony Arter, the pensions ombudsman, told MPs on Wednesday that he expected the Covid-19 crisis will lead to more employers trying to persuade staff to quit their pensions.

“There will be a lot of small employers who will turn to their employees and try and encourage them to opt out of automatic enrolment,” Mr Arter told the work and pensions select committee.

Mr Arter, whose office settles disputes between pension schemes and their members, said

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Sunak will not be able to play Santa Claus forever

Chancellor Rishi Sunak cemented his status as the government’s Santa Claus on Wednesday, lavishing more gifts to help companies and households deal with the coronavirus crisis.

But while Mr Sunak hailed his “plan for jobs”, the bean-counters at the Treasury were totting up the cost to taxpayers.

The chancellor’s decisions in his summer statement, alongside plunging tax revenues, are likely to push the budget deficit up to £361.5bn, according to Financial Times calculations. This figure is more than six times the deficit forecast in March by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Mr Sunak said his latest intervention was necessary to protect and create jobs at a time of “profound economic challenges”.

The Treasury disclosed that it has allocated £188bn of support measures to the economy since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Of this, by far the most expensive single item has been the government’s job retention scheme, with a

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Chancellor warned his job boosting package may fall flat

Rishi Sunak made young people and low-income workers the focus of a £30bn summer statement intended to avert mass unemployment but business groups say the biggest measure — a bonus for bringing back furloughed workers — will not prevent a wave of job losses.

At a potential cost of £9bn, the £1,000 payment for employers who bring back furloughed workers was the costliest part of a package which included a £2bn fund to create jobs for young people and a £1bn injection of funding for jobcentres. Framing the statement as a plan for jobs, Mr Sunak told MPs he would “never accept unemployment as an unavoidable outcome”.

But the chancellor resisted calls to continue funding the UK’s furlough scheme in its current form, or to target support on hard hit sectors other than hospitality, saying it would be irresponsible to leave people “trapped in a job that can only exist

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Multiple Boohoo inspections find no modern slavery offences

UK authorities have found no evidence of modern slavery offences in the first round of inspections on Boohoo subcontractors in Leicester, underlining the challenge of tackling allegations about the city’s illegal garment factories.

Over the past week seven separate government agencies visited nine premises in Leicester, prompted by allegations about illegal work practices that Boohoo and Priti Patel, home secretary, have described as “appalling”.

The fast-fashion retailer has lost more than a third of its market value since a Sunday Times investigation exposed longstanding concerns about textile workers in Leicester being paid less than the minimum wage. Ministers also raised fears the cramped, unsafe garment factories helped make the city a hotspot for coronavirus.

But in spite of the concerted government effort to uncover abuses, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority has admitted that “no enforcement has been used during the visits”. “Officers have not at this stage identified any

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