The Government Legislation Programme for Spring 2010 indicates that the Transfer of Undertakings (Pensions) Bill is expected to be published in 2010. The Bill has been in the pipeline for several years, having appeared on the legislation programme as early as 2007.
European legislation relating to the transfer of undertakings provides that when a business is taken over by another entity as a result of a legal merger or transfer, the employment rights of the employees affected by the transfer are protected. However, when implementing the legislation, Ireland availed of an opt-out provision for retirement benefits so that obligations relating to employees’ pension rights (with limited exceptions) do not transfer to a new employer.
The Transfer of Undertakings (Pensions) Bill is expected to extend protections to pension entitlements, on a basis similar to those afforded to employment rights. The Bill is likely to add yet another layer to an already complicated area of law. As it will be of concern to any entity considering acquiring a business whose employees enjoy generous pension entitlements (particularly defined benefit entitlements) it is anticipated that the Bill will be closely examined by the business community and may have a significant effect on future sales of businesses. William Fry will provide a detailed review and analysis of the Bill when it is published.
The Government has also indicated that a Family Law Bill will be drafted to make provision for pension adjustments in the context of separation agreements and certain other reforms in family law. It is not possible to indicate the expected publication date of this Bill at this stage.