HC Deb 26 April 2004 vol 420 cc624-5
6. Shona Mclsaac (Cleethorpes) (Lab)

What plans he has to help people who work for short periods to build up pension rights. [167680]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Maria Eagle)

It is important to enable more employees, and particularly those who change jobs frequently, to start building up a private pension when they leave a job before their rights have vested in an occupational pension scheme. We are legislating to help people who work for short periods build up pension rights. The intention is that, when a person leaves an occupational pension scheme after three months but before their rights have vested, they will get the choice of a cash transfer sum, which includes employer contributions and tax incentives, or a refund of their contributions.

Shona Mclsaac

I thank my hon. Friend for that response. Is she aware that Cleethorpes constituency has the third highest number of part-time workers in Britain because of the very nature of the work in the area, much of which is seasonal? In addition to this, many workers in the industrial sector are agency workers and, again, that means those people are on short-term contracts. Can she assure me that the new, provisions will assist these two sectors of employment in my constituency?

Maria Eagle

My hon. Friend shows her usual assiduity in looking after the needs of her constituents and we can only say "Well done" to her for that. Part-time workers now receive equal treatment in pension provisions and the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 transposed the part-time workers directive into law in this country. I can therefore assure her that part-time workers will benefit just as much from these provisions as full-time workers. We expect 30,000 to 50,000 people to benefit by an average of about £1,000 extra to add to their pension savings.

It is unusual for agency workers to have access to occupational schemes. To the extent that they do, they will be protected similarly. However, agency workers, of course, have the option of putting money into stakeholder pensions.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab)

I welcome my hon. Friend's remarks about agency workers. In the north-west, as she will realise, companies have made people redundant and then taken them back on as agency workers in order to get out of making pension contributions and supporting pension funds. Will she look at that, and also at the situation of construction workers, who swap companies all the time and may sometimes work abroad, and are therefore unable to build up and benefit from their pensions in the way that others do?

Maria Eagle

I will of course consider any constituency issue that my hon. Friend wants to draw to my attention. I deplore practices such as those that he mentioned, which are used by businesses intent on fiddling their employees out of pension contributions. That is not the kind of partnership that we want to see. I should add that most companies are not like that. As I said, the small but important improvements in pension legislation should help part-time workers just as much as full-time workers. I undertake to look further at what my hon. Friend has said.

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