Last year, in PO-7277 Mr A (28 March 2017), the Pensions Ombudsman found that a member’s benefits could not be withheld by his scheme, despite the member having committed fraud against his employer.

This was because the relevant scheme rule only allowed set-off where the member had left employment “in consequence of” a criminal, negligent or fraudulent act. Here, the member had left employment by reason of redundancy, not due to the later-discovered fraud. 

On appeal, in Enfield London Borough Council v Jossa [2017] EWHC 2749 (Ch) the High Court agreed with the Ombudsman’s view that the rule in question was clear, precise and unambiguous. However unjust the outcome might seem, the wording could not be construed to allow the employer to hold back the member’s benefits.

Comment: Although the employer will no doubt be disappointed, this is another case emphasising that unambiguous wording in regulations or scheme rules cannot easily be ignored.