In the case of Professor H Fraser the Pensions Ombudsman held that Teachers’ Pensions, the administrators of the Teachers Pensions Scheme (TPS), was guilty of maladministration as it had not been “conversant with” important changes in the regulations governing TPS and advice they had given a scheme member had been out of date and incorrect.
The applicant’s late husband had contacted Teachers’ Pensions regarding the entitlements that would be available to his step-children upon his death. The applicant complained that her late husband had been given incorrect information about TPS and that had he been given the correct information, provisions made in his inheritance and separation with his former wife would have been different. The Ombudsman held that the late husband had also placed direct reliance on the incorrect information supplied by TPS.
The Ombudsman however refused to uphold a complaint against the employer for failing to provide the members with information about the change of scheme rules. The Ombudsman commented that the cases of University of Nottingham v Eyett and Outram v Academy Plastics provide that there is no strict obligation on an employer to advise employees in respect of rights under a scheme but these cases do not necessarily preclude the Ombudsman from finding that failure to supply information amounts to maladministration. In this case he was satisfied that because there were reasonable measures (for example information on the website) in place to draw members’ attention to the changes in the various amendments. This meant that the employer was not guilty of maladministration for failing to expressly draw this particular amendment to the member’s attention.
Comment: Although the Ombudsman recognised the case law indicating that there is no obligation on employers to advise employees of rights under a pension scheme, he indicated that a failure to supply such information could nevertheless constitute maladministration.