Future Pensions Act submitted to Lower House

The Dutch Future Pensions Act (Wet toekomst pensioenen) was submitted to the Lower House on 30 March 2022. The intended effective date is 1 January 2023, a year later than planned. A brief recap: why is our current pension system being reformed?

The subject of pensions is often a hot potato in negotiations between employers and employees. Many pension schemes guarantee a ‘fixed’ pension upon retirement. Due to rising life expectancy, however, retired employees are drawing pensions for increasingly longer periods. Employers are thus having to supplement their pension assets time and time again to fulfil the pension guarantees. These schemes place excessive financial pressure on the current and future generations and are no longer tenable.

The pension agreement of 5 June 2019 contains a broad array of measures designed to guarantee reasonable pensions for future pensioners too, without retirement benefits being watered down.

We explain the key amendments in the Future Pensions Act below.

From false certainty to a fairer and more flexible system

Given that many pension schemes contain promises regarding pension amounts, sizable buffers are required. Besides, due to the prolonged low market interest rates, pension assets have grown less than expected. This has resulted in many pensions not being increased (i.e. indexed) for many years. Furthermore, economic prosperity does not automatically lead to an increase in pensions, as buffers need to be supplemented first.

Moreover, the current pension system, based the notion that contributions and payments are generally fixed for every member, assumes that employees stay with one employer for life, whereas the average ‘job period’ is now about ten years. Furthermore, people working in the platform economy often hop from employment to self-employed status and back again.

Pension accrual according to the broadly applicable system does not align with social reality and the Future Pensions Act will therefore reform it. Even though pension contributions will remain the same for everyone, there will be no more promises regarding pension payments. This will give employers greater security, because pension costs will no longer increase as life expectancy increases.

The new system will also make allowance for differences between groups of scheme members. The idea behind this is that contributions by younger employees euro can be invested for longer – and can therefore yield more – than money put in by older employees. Pension funds will be expected to inform scheme members proactively and transparently about developments in the pension assets.

The Future Pensions Act also contains several elements designed to ensure that older scheme members feel less impact from economic shocks than younger scheme members. As a person grows older, their risk appetite becomes increasingly defensive in order to ensure a more stable pension payment in line with their expectations. Pension accrual on the basis of the Future Pensions Act should therefore be more resistant to fluctuations in the economy.

How has the transition been designed?

Another important cornerstone of the Future Pensions Act is clarification and greater transparency of pensions and the transition to the new pension system, which is due to begin on 1 January 2023. This is why the government has launched the website www.werkenaanonspensioen.nl, where employers, employees and pension providers can find more information on the implementation of the new pension system.

Given that many people find pensions a complex matter, the government is providing the public with information about the Future Pensions Act in clear and straightforward terms. In addition to launching a large-scale public campaign, the government will set up a public platform and provide a ‘basic knowledge toolkit’ for the pension sector, including communication resources.

Finally, it also intends to relax the rules on pension cuts in the period leading up to the transition to the new pension system. This will reduce the chance of pension funds having to cut their pensions prior to the new system taking effect.

Jasper Hoffstedde (jh@clintlegal.com / +31 20 820 0330)