THE CHURCH has two categories of employers who have a statutory obligation to make pension contributions to the Church of England Funded Pensions Scheme (CEFPS), said Jonathan Spencer, chairman of the Church of England Pensions Board: there are the major Responsible Bodies such as diocesan boards of finance and the Church Commissioners; and the smaller Responsible Bodies such as theological colleges, certain charities, and university colleges, some with very few members.
Under Section 75 of the 1995 Pensions Act, an employer participating in a defined-benefit scheme cannot “walk away” from its liabilities should the organisation fail or be wound up.
In the case of a multi-employer like the Church of England, should one of the smaller employers become insolvent, cease to employ active members, or be wound up, the debt incurred is apportioned among the other Responsible Bodies. Calculating the shares of liability, however, is a complicated business requiring professional help. New rules now apply. All the church bodies will be designated as either major or minor Responsible Bodies, and the debt apportioned to the minor bodies will be nominal, fixed at £100.
Mr Spencer said that the new rules had already been approved by the participating bodies, and he was asking Synod to ratify what had already been agreed.
The Revd Dr John Hartley (Bradford) complained that members had not been given adequate paperwork in order to understand the new rules. What would happen, he asked, if one of the smaller dioceses, facing insolvency, devolved all its pension responsibilities to the deaneries? Would they then be considered major or minor Responsible Bodies?
Tim Hind (Bath & Wells) reminded the Synod that some years ago it had given the responsibility for missionary-society pensions to the C of E Pension Board. What would be the effect, he asked, should a missionary agency fail?
Mr Spencer replied that Dr Hartley had raised a hypothetical issue, because dioceses were not allowed to pass on pension responsibilities to the deaneries. As for the missionary agencies, the Church Commissioners would take responsibility for them.
The motion to amend the C of E Pensions Scheme (Debt Apportionment) (Amendment) Rules 2008 was passed.