LAID-OFF workers who have been promised early retirement deals may end up disappointed, the pensions ombudsman has warned.
Ombudsman Paul Kenny said he had dealt with a number of complaints where workers lost their jobs and were promised they would get a pension from the age of 60.
But insolvent schemes may not be able to keep a promise to pay workers a pension from the age of 60, he said.
Mr Kenny explained that he got seven complaints from a group of redundant workers who had been told categorically at the time of their redundancy that their pensions would be paid at age 60 rather than 65.
"The trustees had not amended the scheme rules, however, and appeared to be relying on an early retirement rule to give effect to the employer's promise."
When the first member reached 60, the scheme had become insolvent and the trustees refused to pay.
However, Mr Kenny's office contacted the unnamed employer and its legal advisers and a settlement was reached to pay the pension benefits from the age of 60.
Mr Kenny said: "A refusal of early retirement is common, and correct, when schemes are insolvent.
"It was fortunate in this case that the employer was well-resourced and able to commit to the deal that was brokered."
Reviewing the past year, Mr Kenny said 2011 had been another tough year for pensions and investments.
He said his office was there to assist people in the resolution of their pension-related complaints and encouraged the use of early intervention and mediation as a means of resolving disputes that are submitted to him.
Not every complaint has to go to determination, and early intervention can sometimes help to prevent the escalation of a difficulty, he said.
Mr Kenny stressed the role that good clear communication could play, particularly in helping members to understand the nature of their benefits and in encouraging them to actively engage in its management.
Those managing pension arrangements should ensure the information they provided to members was clear, correct and could be relied on, he said.
"In addition, it is most important that pension scheme members take the time to examine the scheme information they are provided with and understand the nature and value of their pension entitlement."